Social Networking Rants Against Exes Turning Up In Court

from the careful-what-you-type dept

For many people, it's natural to treat social networking platforms as being the equivalent of just talking -- rather than being any sort of formal written communication. Of course, the big difference is that everything you type can be accurately saved forever -- and, potentially, used against you in court. Obviously what people say out loud can also be used in court, but in an argument between, say, a broken up couple, a yelling fight just becomes a screaming match. In the social networking world, it can become evidence. Two recent stories highlight this. The first, from Eric Goldman, is the "disturbingly humorous" transcript from the court concerning a blog post about a woman's ex-husband:

BY [DEFENSE]: ... Prior to Au-April 22nd, 2008 had you ever expressed or communicated in any way that you wanted your ex to die a slow painful death?

A I believe you're referring to my "My Space" ...

Q I'm not-I-no, I'm not referring to anything. I'm just asking you a simple question: if you'd ever expressed or communicated in any way that you wanted your ex-husband, Mr. Embry, to die a slow painful death?

A I see it right there on your desk.

Q Okay.

A It's my "My Space" blog.

Q Okay, did you say it?

A I typed it.

Q Okay. But the answer is, did you say it? I mean is that your communication.

A I typed it.

Q Okay. And did you ever express um, or communicate in any way that you wanted to be present and dance the cha-cha around his slow painful death?

A It's all there in the blog.

Q Okay. The answer's a simple yes or no. You said it; you've communicated it some way, did you?

A If you want to put that blog there, I ...

Q I'm just asking you a simple question.

BY COURT: Ma'am, will ya just answer the question yes or no?

A Yes, I did.

Q Did you ever refer to Mr. Embry or communicate in any way that he was a worthless bag of monkey shit?

A Yes.

Q Did you ever refer to him as dog piss?

A Yes.

Q Did you ever refer to him as a worm puke stale crusty moldy inhuman horrible human oxygen sucking moron?

A Yes.

Q Did you ever communicate the desire, that because he's older and more stupid than you, he will die way before you do?

A I believe I said please assure me that it was possible that he would pass before me."

The state's attorney redirects with this understated summary:

"BY [STATE]: Ms. Embry, is it fair-fair to say that you're not very fond of your former husband?

A No, I am not fond of him at all."

The second such story takes place in the UK, where a 29-year-old man has been fined for the message he sent his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. The court won't reveal what was in the note, but apparently it was judged to be "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character."

Perhaps this is just a sign of our litigious times, but it does seem like there's a bit of a clash going on between how people view social networking (as a communication system, like talking, where you can make extreme statements in the heat of the moment) when they communicate, and how it's then used in courts -- as more of an "official statement of record."
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: court, rants, social networks

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Jake, 23 Mar 2010 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: online trails are long

    I grant that 'inciting racial/religious hatred' is a minefield, but can you honestly argue that freedom of speech should include the right to frighten and intimidate people with implicit threats?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.