That pesky “like” button. It’s been messing with us since Facebook introduced it to our feeds in February 2009. Some of us use the feature more frequently than others, but it only takes a split second to express your opinion to family, friends, and the general public. Do you remember the thousands of photos, videos, posts, status updates, tweets, and articles that you liked? The internet remembers. Can any of those likes be misinterpreted? Will your social media like history ever affect your life offline?
A Bachelor with a History
A contestant on this season’s The Bachelor came under fire immediately after the premiere when a controversial “like” history appeared on Twitter. Screenshots showed he liked posts mocking undocumented immigrants, the trans community, and liberal feminists. Upon the reveal of this social media like history, the internet’s response judged quickly and severely. The intense scrutiny forced him to remove all of his social media accounts and issue an apology. The issue might influence his standing with the network and affect any future projects. How will this impact future candidates and social media screenings in the future?
Social Media Like History and Protected Speech
The most compelling case of social media likes involved six employees of the Hampton, Va., sheriff’s office in Bland v. Roberts. They claimed the sheriff fired them for endorsing a rival candidate during a re-election campaign. A federal judge ruled in January 2012 that a free speech violation did not occur. He decided the Like button did not merit First Amendment protection because it did not speak in a “clear” or “meaningful way.” The employees appealed. A higher court later ruled symbolic speech protected the like button.
The appeals court stated, “Simple signals of intention and reaction — the most individually uncreative forms of expression imaginable — are now enshrined as constitutionally protected conduits of self-expression.” The judges ruled that the like button compared to posting a polital sign in the front yard or burning the American flag.
Analyze Your Likes
To view your like history on Facebook, go to your activity log. Did you like anything that could be misinterpreted? What conclusions would a prospective employer make about your opinions? How would the internet react? Should that even matter? It may be better to err on the side of caution on this one.