Can You Be Prosecuted for a Facebook ‘like’?

A US appeals court found – properly, in my view – that clicking ‘Like’ on the Facebook page of a political candidate was political speech protected by freedom of expression law.

Another US court found that clicking on ‘Like’ on the Facebook page of someone who has a restraining order against any contact by the clicker is contempt of the restraining order. That too seems sensible, if severe. (Restraining orders often need to be severely enforced.)

Here is an account of a bit of a confused British situation, where someone is apparently being investigated by police for Liking a Facebook page that criticized an opponent of a proposed municipal development. (I know, there are too many negatives in that sentence…)

Can or should a FB Like be sufficiently expressive as to constitute criminal harassment, in the absence of a previous court order prohibiting communication? Does the page Liked have itself to constitute such harassment, and does it make sense to prosecute the Liker along with (or worse, instead of) the author of the original page?

Could this happen here? (Note that it has not yet ‘happened’ in the UK… the police are said to be considering charges.)

How subtle does the analysis of a Like have to be, to do justice?

[h/t to the Privacy and Access Council LinkedIn discussion group.]

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Comments

  1. David Scrimshaw

    Thank you for this post.

    I am looking forward to more judicial interpretation on this issue and hope the courts go farther and explore the full ramifications of the Facebook “poke”.

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