A Critical Look at a Facebook “Like” as Free Speech

From a Al Jazeera America news article:

“Liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it,” Chief Judge William Traxler wrote for a three-judge panel of the Richmond, Va.,-based appeals court. “It is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

From a Bloomberg news article:

The appeals court reversed a lower-court judge who said that simply clicking the “Like” button on a Facebook page didn’t amount to “a substantive statement” that warrants constitutional protection.

I wholeheartedly agree with the U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling. But their interpretation is lacking foundation from ideas shared in the philosophy of information.

The act of clicking a “like” hyperlink on Facebook or Facebook application, such as a “like” button on a news article web page or political figure campaign website, demonstrates knowledge of the primary information contained in the subject matter that can be “liked” in a web browser.

The sub-classification that is important here, the act of “liking” said primary information, is that from a neutral, third-party position, “liking” the main idea or an aspect of said primary information is primary-derivative-operational information.

Primary-derivative-operational information

Operationally, Bobby Bland demonstrated his knowledge and approval of the primary information by clicking the “like” hyperlink on Facebook. This operational information is, of course, derivative in nature, being that it is subsidiary information when juxtaposed to the actual content of the primary information.

Another common act that is considered free speech from a third-party observer that is also primary-derivative-operational information is carrying a sign at a strike or demonstration of some manner. A demonstrator is showing his or her approval or disapproval of some aspect of some primary-information. Again, the act of agreeing with primary information is derivative in this context. Facebook doesn’t support a “dislike” hyperlink, but if it did, someone who shows (shares) that they have knowledge of that primary information (content contained in a Facebook post) and, operationally, demonstrates their agreement by clicking a supporting hyperlink, should be supported by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Liking, re-tweeting, etc, demonstrates:

  1. having some knowledge of the primary information
  2. showing support of some aspect of said primary, primary-secondary, primary-meta, primary-operational, or primary-derivative information

Performing both of the above two items is a requirement to verbalizing support for a political candidate, which is also protected under the First Amendment.