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Category Archives: Defamation

Are You a Victim of Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn may or may not be prosecuted in your state, depending upon how they were obtained, whether copyrights exist, and if a video voyeurism statute applies.camera

The site WomenAgainstRevengePorn.com has some step-by-step hints to remove photos.

If you have a copy of the nude picture, you can use Google’s “Search by Image” in order to reverse-look-up what sites are posting your photo.

Florida Court Holds Threat on Facebook to be “Sent” to Victim

In Timothy Ryan O’Leary v. State of Florida, the First District held that Defendant’s threat of bodily harm posted to his Facebook page was “sent” under Florida Statute 836.10 (“Written Threats to Kill or Do Bodily Harm”) because it was viewed by Defendant’s Facebook friend who was a family member of the victim.

The court held that the statute is violated when (1) a person writes or composes a threat to kill or do bodily harm, (2) the person sends the communication, and (3) the threat is to the recipient or a member of his family.

Here, Defendant went on a rant about a relative, posting on Facebook that he was “gonna fuck you up and bury your bitch ass. [...]  I’ll tear up the concrete with your face and drag you back to your doorstep.”  The entire post is set forth in footnote two of the opinion.

Without comment, the court deemed this post to be a threat to kill or do bodily harm.

The court held that the post was “sent” since the statute was amended in 2010 to include “electronic communication” and that, by the very nature of Facebook, “it is reasonable to presume that the [Defendant] wished to communicate the information to all his Facebook friends.”

Finally, the Defendant had previously sent a Facebook friend request to one of his relatives, Michael.  At the time the post was made, Michael had accepted the request and was a Facebook friend of the Defendant.  Michael showed the post to another relative, who then showed it to the victim (it appears all persons were related).  The court concluded that Michael was the recipient and the threat was directed at a member of Michael’s family.

Both the trial and appellate court made note of the fact that Defendant’s Facebook page was public at the time the post was made.  It appears the trial court relied in part on the public status of the Facebook page when it ruled on whether the post was “sent.”  In what appears to be dicta, the First District notes that “electronic communications” on the Internet are frequently not direct communications but sent to groups on social media sites.  Thus, this opinion may leave to future cases the specific question as to whether a public post on a social media site is “sent” to a victim.

First Amendment / Defamation Case Discusses “Religious Internet Filtration Software”

The case of Darrel Bilbrey v. David Myers and First Pentecostal, Etc. from Florida’s Fifth DCA may be a significant case as to the “church autonomy doctrine” but also yielded a reference to an interesting internet tool:  faith-based internet monitoring.

Here’s how this came up in a court opinion: the Bilbrey case involves two church members in a mentor relationship where the plaintiff confided in the defendant that he (plaintiff) had been labelled as gay “as a teenager by an authority figure.”  According to the court opinion, this somehow “…ultimately led to Bilbrey’s installation of a religious internet filtration and accountability system on his personal computer that reports suspect internet usage, or attempted usage, to third parties.  [Defendant] Myers served as Bilbrey’s ‘accountability partner’ under the system and one report prompted Myers to ask Bilbrey if he was gay.”

A Google search revealed that there are at least ten such faith-based internet monitoring services available.  Most appear to be for self-regulation or for child-raising but some software, such as CovenantEyes, notifies third parties of the user’s internet travels.  In other words, a user puts this software on his or her PC/cellphone or connects via a cloud service, and permits other people to monitor the user’s internet habits.  The concept is that the user is accountable to a third person — one example given included a wife concerned about her husband’s internet habits.  Interestingly, this is not necessarily a filtration or blocking service.  It allows the user to proceed but reports the attempted/successful access of suspect sites to third person(s).

To be clear, we’re not driving at a specific legal or social point other than to acknowledge that we did not know that faith-based third party reporting tools existed before this court case was published.  To some, this kind of filter/reporting software is a welcome tool for spirituality, safe-Internetting, and peace of mind.  To others, this software might represent censorship and a frightening degree of trust in other people.

Our discovery revealed some interesting and somewhat related stories such as  this ACLU case where a public library filtered Wiccan and Native American religious terms.  Also on a related note, see this recent L.A. Times story about a religious group studying popular movie content and ticket sales to conclude that “clean” movies are more profitable than their R rated counterparts.

Does Your Company Need a Lawyer to Handle Social Media, Twitter and Facebook?

At least one company, Clorox, is looking for a full time, in house lawyer to clean up their social media policies and presence.  Is that necessary?

A marketing person (or even an astute college student) could likely develop and monitor Twitter feeds and a Facebook fan page.  But is that enough?

Developing a social media policy and handling questions about “new” issues (tech, advertising, responses to comments) is a task probably for a lawyer.

For businesses looking to enter the Social Networking sphere, I would recommend a Twitter feed, Facebook fan page, and an announcement on their own webpage (media release is optional).  I would further recommend setting up an automatic Google search for your business name appearing on the Internet as well as routine searches/monitoring of Twitter and Facebook.  Finally, you need a clear social media policy.

This is actually a fairly good task for a lawyer and paralegal working with the client.  The client could develop the content and have the law firm handle the updating and monitoring.  With a cost-effective paralegal on the front line with some concise supervision by counsel, this would be cost effective.  Moreover, it would ensure (a) the corporation has a social media policy, (b) the posts and entries are appropriate and not patently violating policy or laws, and (c) major social networking sites are monitored for defamation, copyright, unfair competition and other issues.

Depending upon the frequency of the posting/monitoring, this likely could be accomplished for a few hundred dollars a month.  A lot of PR firms could run up that tab in a week.  In good hands, this could be transitioned back to the company full time after 6-12 months.

Meanwhile, follow Clorox on Twitter to see how they are doing.  Some basic good advice on cleaning up your Twitter service is here.  Email if you have comments, experiences or questions about lawyers providing social media services.  I’m interested to see who else out there is providing that service.