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."
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Filed Under: court, rants, social networks

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  1. identicon
    known coward, 23 Mar 2010 @ 8:03am

    online trails are long

    You really can’t make statements in public without repercussions, it is just much harder to prove and if you say the insult among friends, asoapposed to online in person you get away with it.

    For example if you say “god dam albino’s they are taking american’s job and all should be killed” in a bar, usually like minded folks will nod their heads and everyone will forget for sure what you said the next day cause you are just a drunken idiot talking to other drunken idiots. Now if an easily offended albino hears you, he may punch you out or have you tracked down and arrested for uttering “hate speech”. But then everyone has to agree you said it, and you all were drunk and memories are hazy . . .

    Do it on myspace. There is a record of it. All the Albino’s who read the page will feel threatened by you a drunken idiot who is proved capable of doing stupid things. Albino’s will, (quite reasonably) want something done about it. Does not matter if you are drunk and stupid and really did not mean it. There it is in print you wrote it, and it is FOREVER inciting hatred and fear on the interweb.

    Damm straight you will be prosecuted and thrown in jail, much to the relief of albino’s everywhere.

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