Mom Who Used Son's Facebook Account Found Guilty Of Online Harassment

from the careful-what-you-post dept

We're somewhat skeptical of the various "cyberharassment" laws out there, as they leave themselves wide open to interpretation (often in dangerous ways). In April, we wrote about one case involving a son who sued his mother for harassment after she used his Facebook account (she went to the computer and he had not logged out) to post angry messages on his wall, pretending to be him, and then changed his password and locked him out of the account. (As a quick aside: I just checked, and as with most online services, Facebook appears to require you to type in your old password before you can enter a new one -- so I'm wondering how she had access to his existing password...).

Either way, Rose M. Welch alerts us to the news that the mother has been found guilty, told to pay $435, given a 30-day suspended jail sentence, and ordered to take both anger management and parenting classes. Clearly, what she did was wrong, though I do wonder if it really reaches the level of harassment. Some of the judge's reasoning also is a bit suspect. Part of the reasoning for the guilty ruling was that the mother had left messages on her son's voicemail that included curse words. The son is 17, so it's not like he hasn't heard those words before -- and the mother insisted that this was part of their normal joking banter. The judge, however, declared it "totally, completely inappropriate." Now, I'm not going to say that leaving voicemail messages to your children with curse words is a good parenting technique, but it still seems a bit extreme to use that as evidence of harassment.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Trails (profile), May 28th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    What changed my mind about this

    Was when this was first posted, the mom showed up in the comments of the originating newspaper and started insulting her son. It was bizarre, and an indication that the woman is a nutjob.

    Certainly all the evidence seems to indicate she's a weirdo, and the court is pretty much telling her to leave her son alone.

    Keep in mind she has ceded guardianship of the boy to his grandparents, which has a bearing as well.

    IMO, that act of posting on your son's FB account isn't harassment in and of itself, same as phoning someone isn't harassment in and of itself, but can be if it forms a pattern of harassment, as seems to be the case here.

     

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  2.  
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    mrharrysan (profile), May 28th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Hey, I'm not a lawyer, but how do you get from a lawsuit to jailtime? Isn't this a civil matter, or did the son file charges too?

     

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  3.  
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    Dan (profile), May 28th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    The 'busting an adult' double standard

    If the 17 year old had done this to someone else, the penalty probably wouldn't be considered as unusual. But because it's:

    1) an adult doing it
    2) one of the parents

    it's OK? What a load of crap. It's the typical, 'kids only have the rights adults decide to give them' mentality. If we wish to teach children to respect the law, we must face the consequences when we ourselves do not.

     

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    a-dub (profile), May 28th, 2010 @ 1:12pm

    There's a reason why kids dont have rights. Its a parents job to "harass" the child. Its called parenting. Too bad Judge Judy wasnt presiding. This would have been a non issue.

     

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  5.  
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    Jon B., May 28th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    I don't know what the criteria for harassment are. But this wasn't an anonymous person or 'friend' sending a series of harassing messages (than can be ignored)... this is a case where the woman and son were having a physical and verbal confrontation in the same house and then she did something else harassing on top of it (that would be no different than saying those same things to his face in a public place, since she used his account that his friends will see)

    So, in this case I have to agree with the jury. If they weren't having physical contact and it was messages he could easily block or ignore, then I would disagree. But this was a little closer to home than that.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    Re:

    Oh, read the article. He already wasn't living with her, and it sounded like she already had a history of being something other than a parent. Once a parent makes that choice, then they have to be as liable for their actions as any other stranger would be. It ain't called 'parenting'.

     

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  7.  
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    Jon B., May 28th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

    Re:

    Is it called 'suing' when you're the complainant in a criminal matter, or is it just called 'pressing charges'? Because that's what happened, not a civil thing.

     

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  8.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, May 28th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    way to think here is

    just imagine if this wasnt the mother but anyone else
    they d get hacking charges too which are federal prison time kinda stuff

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    totally off subject

    Remember when Alec Baldwin left that voicemail on his daughters phone calling her a disgusting pig

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    She was a parent in the biological sense. The gave up her rights and his guardian was his grandmother. She may as well have been a stranger.

     

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  11.  
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    Christopher Smith, May 28th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

    Password availability

    It wouldn't surprise me if she managed to get a hold of a browser that had his Facebook password saved. Use a master password, everybody!

     

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  12.  
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    Dohn Joe, May 29th, 2010 @ 2:13am

    Again...

    Once again a good example of law determining culture. How the #$*&^ is it any of the judges business how a mother and child communicate? How the hell would he/she understand/interepret this without living their lives for them?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    Re: Again...

    It wasn't any of the judges business UNTIL the son took legal action against his mother.

     

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  14.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 30th, 2010 @ 11:33pm

    Re:

    She's the mother, but not the parent. The grandmother has had custody for years.

     

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  15.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), May 31st, 2010 @ 3:19am

    > so I'm wondering how she had access to his existing password...

    Well, it's simple... The son probably has a password manager active with his web browser. This would just fill in the old password automatically, so he won't have to remember it.
    With a web browser like Google Chrome, it's also possible to view all those passwords, if you know how.

    About the case itself... It just shows bad parenting, for which the mother has been punished with a fine and suspended sentence. It's fair, considering she's mentally abusing her own child. (Who is still a minor, btw.)

     

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    cathy75 (profile), May 31st, 2010 @ 7:48am

    I think the mother has no right to post angry messages on his son's wall. Whether you are a parent, a son, or a daughter each of us has our own individuality. We have to learn to respect each persona. Cathy works in the internet marketing field with interests in home and garden related websites. She is currently promoting an online store that sells mailbox posts.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2010 @ 9:50pm

    "Cyberbullying" laws are a load of crap and need to be gotten rid of. Toughen up on the internet.

     

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  18.  
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    noesbueno (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    mailbox posts???

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:13pm

    Re:

    Why don't you blow it out your ass cheesedick? On the way, go f*ck yourself too!

     

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  20.  
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    Kingsley Tagbo, Jun 4th, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Too many laws!

    There are way too many laws that cannot be enforced, and more coming every day. Judges also can't keep up with all these laws as well as things like social media. The son is somewhat at fault as well, for actually going to sue his own mother for a few hundred dollars. Is the judge saying that the mother can't ground her own son from Facebook? She may not have done it in the best way possible, but it's up to the parent to decide whether or not their children can use Facebook, not a judge. Harassment is not a new law. But it is always judged in new ways, especially when new types of harassment are involved, like Facebook account harassment.

     

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  21.  
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    lts, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Re: way to think here is

    She would not have gotten `hacking' charges. It would have been `digital trespassing'.

     

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  22.  
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    harold, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

    you do not need to know the old password

    you do not need to know the old password. when clicking on 'forgot password' it then sends a link to your email address. when you log into you email and click on the link, it then allows you to reset password and confirm. no old password is necessary.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 8:45am

    thats really rude, now i know why my parent wouldnt let me have one until i was 15

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2010 @ 8:45am

    thats really rude, now i know why my parent wouldnt let me have one until i was 15

     

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