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Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
lawsuits

Companies:
facebook



Son Gets Mom Charged With Harassment Over Facebook Account Hijacking

from the uh,-is-that-harassment-or-hacking? dept

Slashdot points us to a story of a kid who is got his mom charged with harassment over his Facebook account. While the Slashdot version (and the opening of the news article) make this sound like it was filed over posts from his mom on his profile, the details suggest something quite a bit different. This isn't him being upset that his mom wrote stuff on his wall (hell, he could just block her or unfriend her), but about her apparently hacking into his account, changing his password and posting "slanderous" things as him. That seems a lot more like hacking and unauthorized access, rather than "harassment." Update: According to some, the son had left a computer where he was logged in, and the mother access his account that way.

But, alas, it appears that in Arkansas, where this is taking place, is one of those states that has passed some sort of cyberbullying/cyberharassment law that make it illegal "to harass, annoy or alarm another person without good cause." These laws tend to be way too broad, and risk criminalizing very minor activities (basic trolling, for example). So while it seems clear that, if the son's story is true, the mother clearly deserves some form of legal punishment, it's still troubling that the choice here was to use a harassment law, rather than a hacking law.

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  • icon
    Danny (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:06pm

    Minor infraction

    I don't know enough about the case to know what the mother's intentions (or specific behaviors) were. But I do note the kid is 16.

    So I ask the question: does a 16 year old have the legal right to have a Facebook account that his legal guardians don't have access to? Or, do his legal guardians have the right to manage a minor's online presence if they so desire?

    I am not asking whether this is smart parenting (I presume something less confrontational would be smarter parenting), rather: to what extent does the law give parents control over their minor's online presence?

    [And I am guessing the answer is: the law is silent on this as it is too new an issue.]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angal2, 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:10pm

      Re: Minor infraction

      The article said that the kid's grandmother has custodial rights, not the mother. This makes the whole issue a bit more fuzzy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Rose M. Welch (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 5:19pm

        Re: Re: Minor infraction

        It doesn't make it fuzzy. It makes it clear. She's not his guardian, so she doesn't have the right to discipline him, much less in this manner. It doesn't look like she has court-ordered visitation, so she doesn't even have the legal right to communicate with him against his wishes, much less access his online accounts and harass him.

        If she were his guardian, it would be an entirely different story.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angelwolf71885, 8 Apr 2010 @ 7:03pm

      Re: Minor infraction

      you RIGHT to privacy doesn't just evaporate because your guarder wants to know

      your rights start on your Birthday NOT at 21

      sue the sit out of your mom kid ac-cert your rights

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Trails (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:12pm

    Couple points

    Apparently, the son left his account logged in on her computer, and she didn't like what she saw so she posted stuff using his account.

    Secondly, someone claiming to be the mother showed up in the comments for the news organization that broke this, and was kinda all over the place, referring to the child (allegedly her son, though again this could have been an impostor) as a "vindictive little brat".

    Anyway, apparently there's a lot of history behind this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Making it illegal to "harass, annoy or alarm" people is unlikely to end well, but tacking "without good cause" on the end is just asinine. How do you harass someone in a good cause?
    I'm sure there was a time when someone actually bothered to proofread laws before they were put to a vote.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:30pm

    If you look at the comments on the original news story, the mom tries to defend her actions as 'keeping an eye on him'. However, the grandmother is his guardian, not his mother. She's just some lady who birthed him. She needs to stay the hell out of his life unless invited.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam Wasserman (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:37pm

    Harassment sharassment...

    ...this a clear case of cyber-bullyig.

    The only kind of bullying that counts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymouse (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:42pm

    "So while it seems clear that, if the son's story is true, the mother clearly deserves some form of legal punishment, it's still troubling that the choice here was to use a harassment law, rather than a hacking law."

    The TechDirt run-on Sentence. I've only been coming here a month now but they are rather frequent!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, 8 Apr 2010 @ 4:59pm

    hi tam

    whats wrong do long , long setances drive you batty, and also make you want to jump out of a ten story building , all while trying to pee in your mouth , yes you too can do long sentances and we love mispellin toooo gotz it lil grammer nazi

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 5:13pm

    Corrections

    Corrections:

    First, this boy did not sue his mother. He filed a complaint with the police, and the DA has charged this woman, Denise New, with harassment.

    Second, Arkadelphia is in Arkansas, not Oklahoma.

    These facts are laid out in the story that you linked to, by the way. :)

    See: http://www.katv.com/news/stories/0410/723100.html
    And: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=157&sid=10298488

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 5:15pm

    Crazy Lady...

    Okay, forget that this woman gave birth to him. That doesn't matter, because she isn't his guardian. This is a woman who broke the law in an attempt to discipline a child that isn't hers. Wow. That is batshit crazy.

    I would be very alarmed if relatives of my children posted harassing comments to their on-line accounts, and would be happy to utilize the law to protect my children from unauthorized account access resulting in harassment from those relatives. Or strangers, for that matter.

    I know that alot of parents are going to be rooting for the birth mother here, but she doesn't really have a moral leg to stand on. If she was informed of or noticed disturbing behavior, she needed to report it to his guardian or speak to him personally. She has no more right to discipline him, have a conversation with him, or to harrass him than a stranger. And a stranger who did this would be prosecuted, which is what is happening to her. Yay. End of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2010 @ 6:36pm

      Re: Crazy Lady...

      Screw her. I don't care what the situation was that made the grandmother the guardian, but whatever it was shows that this woman was (at least at one time) a pretty screwed up individual. I agree with you. She's a nut and all she's going to understand is the good ol' legal banhammer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AR, 8 Apr 2010 @ 6:53pm

    May have a point

    I can see the point in the prosecutor going with harassment over hacking. The grandmother may have guardianship, but the mother may still have some parental rights.
    Since the boy is under 18 she could POSSIBLY argue that she has some right of access. If that's the case then a judge might not find for the hacking charge.
    With the filing of harassment, access is not the issue. What she did after gaining access is. This could mean a stronger chance of getting the charge to stick and hopefully teaching her a lesson.

    After all the grandmother must be guardian for a reason. But I'm not a lawyer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2010 @ 7:08pm

    Seems to me being a brat is good cause for harrasment and if you want your mom charged by the police, that probably qualifies you as a brat.

    How can going to your own computer, seeing someone else logged in left it open and doing things with the account ever be considered hacking?

    Maybe if he wasn't such a brat, he wouldn't have left his account open.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      kryptonianjorel (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 7:42pm

      Re:

      I'll remember that when I let you borrow my computer to do your banking and you forget to logout... I need to pay for college anyway

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AR, 8 Apr 2010 @ 7:58pm

      Re:

      "Seems to me being a brat is good cause for harrasment"

      In some places harassment is good cause for jail.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      S (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 9:05pm

      Re:

      You sound like an embittered failure of a parent trying to justify their own appalling abuses of "parental authority" by sympathizing with another abuser.

      Nice job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rose M. Welch (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 10:29pm

      Re:

      "...if you want your mom charged by the police, that probably qualifies you as a brat.

      So... Kids who cooperated in complaints of abuse or neglect are brats? God, those brats! How dare you want your mom to be charged for beating you!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rose M. Welch (profile), 8 Apr 2010 @ 10:31pm

      Re:

      Also, hacking is a problem because you are accessing things without authorization. How you get there isn't important. It's the action that's important.

      Like theft. If doesn't matter if you stuffed a can of beans under your shirt; it doesn't matter if they forgot their purse at your house and you stole money from it; it doesn't matter if you were only able to steal the car because the keys were in the ignition. It's still all theft. How you accomplished your action doesn't matter. Only your action does.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    blue, 9 Apr 2010 @ 3:05am

    it appears

    it appears that in Arkansas, where this is taking place, is one of those states that has passed some sort of cyberbullying/cyberharassment law that make it illegal "to harass, annoy or alarm another person without good cause." These laws tend to be way too broad, and risk criminalizing very minor activities (basic trolling, for example). So while it seems clear that, if the son's story is true, the mother clearly deserves some form of legal punishment, it's still troubling that the choice here was to use a harassment law, rather than a hacking law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    known coward, 9 Apr 2010 @ 6:34am

    i do not see how a hacking charge could stick

    She did not hack anything, he left the account open on HER machine. If it needed to be closed he should have done it.

    I do see the harrassment charge. She certainly was annoying him. Though i think the legal standard for cyber bullying should be more than annoyance. As another poster pointed out, debt collectors by definition are annoying it is their job and within reason they should be annoying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Joel (profile), 9 Apr 2010 @ 7:03am

    wow

    I can't even comment on this story, even though I'm doing so...this is just dumb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mac4brains, 9 Apr 2010 @ 7:06am

    I love the way the news leaves things out

    the mother did not have the rights to do this since she is not the boys guardian, since she did not have custody of the child. She has the same legal rights to do this as any one else in the world. Only the child's guardian had the right to do this.

    I love the way most news web sites fail to mention this!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    known coward, 9 Apr 2010 @ 8:24am

    the mother is joining the discussion on the channel 7 page

    and it is going to get uglier before it gets prettier.

    From

    http://cfc.katv.com/forums/viewmessages.cfm?forum=17&topic=78400&srow=1&erow=10




    "

    benton wrote:
    What gives the mother the right to post anything on her son's personal page? It's not like she was posting as a friend, she was logged in under his name and posting. She even changed his password. She already lost custody of her son, so keep that in mind before taking her side. I'm sure she isn't as innocent as she is coming off to be with all her comments on here. "

    "

    !st of all I didnt lose custody. I had a mental brk down while going thru a divorce and losing our home in a fire..so that is why grandmother has him...2cnd of HE LEFT HIS FB page LOGGED IN ON MY COMPUTER...and the things I found were mind blowing eyey popping and draw dropping. SO bad they cudnt air it on TV....these types of things are now being looked at by college recruitors and future employers. Maybe if granny was monitoring him I wouldnt have to?????

    reply to message from benton posted on Wed 04/07/10 at 9:53 am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btrussell (profile), 9 Apr 2010 @ 8:38am

    Kid can get a job, buy a computer and pay an ISP. Problem solved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Islic, 9 Apr 2010 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      AMEN!!

      Or can MOM sue son for theft of her electricity? Thief of the computer/hacking using her computer? Can son prove he paid for it? It sure sounds like he is stealing from her, she was using her computer? Her electricity? Or can we all just grow up and not believe everything posted on the internet and who cares what is posted about who because odds are it’s not always 100% accurate. GROW UP!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    enrolled agent 2010, 9 Apr 2010 @ 1:12pm

    The mother does have a point...

    He is her son, the granny is not doing a good job being a guardian so she had to step in. Isn't that a right of every child loving mother?

    Sometimes, some laws really makes me crazy. They're just to irrational when interpreted and USED the wrong way.

    Hayz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    m.o.l, 11 Apr 2010 @ 4:23pm

    mom cheacking facebook

    wat the f@$k

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2010 @ 4:33pm

    as the parent of 2 children who dont live with me,i have every right to protect my children from a society that encourages them to self destruct.what part of he's a minor are folks not getting.i found lube tube (a porn site) on my son's friend's cell phone.he' 15.the same friend who spends nights with my son,at his mom's house.were my 12 year old daughter lives.sounds like this child has no respect for adults.let alone his mother.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A mom, 13 Apr 2010 @ 6:46pm

    mom on facebook

    The mom should never let that jerk use her computer again. In fact, since she's being prosecuted she should cut herself off from that kid completely. So when grandmom passses a way he can go be a foster kid where the foster parents certainly won't let them on their computer. He'll be lucky if he gets food and water and shelter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    maggie Pate Duffey, 16 Apr 2010 @ 9:13am

    mom on facebook

    Does anyone know where I can locate the official documents for this case? I am in paralegal school and am searching for more info about this subject. Thanks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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