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MySpace Diatribe Not Protected by Privacy Rights, Says California Court

In case anyone, even after all the related firings and arrests, is still confused about whether or not their Facebook/MySpace/Twitter comments are protected by privacy acts, a Fresno-based California appellate court clarified the issue last week, the Recorder/ tells us. The court case focused on Cynthia Moreno, a University of California at Berkeley student who, back in 2006, posted an "Ode to Coalinga" on her MySpace page, according to the Citizen Media Law Project. Referring to her Central California hometown, she wrote, "The older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga."

In the mere six days that the posting appeared online, Roger Campbell, the principal of Coalinga High School, noticed the scathing commentary and forwarded it to a local reporter for the Coalinga Record, who, in turn, published it in the paper's letters section. The resulting backlash from the town of 19,000 inhabitants was immediate and, according to the Morenos, devastating. Negative reactions forced the father to close his 20-year-old private business, and, because of threats, and the fact that Cynthia's sister still attended Coalinga High School with Principal Campbell, the family eventually moved. Consequently, the Morenos filed suit against Campbell, the Coalinga Record, its publishers, and the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District for "invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Last Thursday, Fifth District Court of Appeals Justice Bert Levy ruled that, once Moreno posted the ode on MySpace, the "article was available to anyone with Internet access," adding that, since Moreno made the post readily available, she lost any right to privacy expectations. Justice Levy did leave the door open for the Morenos to pursue emotional distress complaints, specifically referring to the principal, determining that a jury should decide "whether Campbell's actions were extreme and outrageous."

We're not sure how long it will take for this message to become ingrained in people's heads, but, at this point, it's hard to feel sympathy for anyone punished for posting derogatory public comments (although we can feel sorry for the apparently naive family). If you want to lambaste someone without repercussions, post it on Facebook after updating your privacy settings so that it's not available to everyone with Internet access.

Do you think Cynthia Moreno's privacy was violated?
Yes203 (35.7%)
No325 (57.1%)
I'm not sure.41 (7.2%)

Free-speech lawyer Karl Olson offered some extremely poignant words of wisdom to those who whimsically post every random thought on social networking sites when he told "Some people probably may need a Miranda warning before they go on the Internet -- that anything they post can and will be used against them." Hopefully, not everyone will heed the warning, as we'd sorely miss reading the daily evolutionary tales about culling the social network herd. Check out the Facebook Face-Loss gallery below for more examples of the sorts of repercussions that can occur when folks publicly post careless content on their social-networking pages. [From:]

Losing Face on Facebook

    Facebook is going to rewrite the book on standard office excuses, at least for its shortsighted users. Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish bank, thought that had an ironclad story when he asked off to attend to a "family emergency." When his boss was alerted to this fresh picture posted to his Facebook profile during his absence, that story lost just a tad of its believability -- unless he was curing Aunt Hattie with his magical powers and a potent hoppy elixir. We're sure that posting the picture seemed like a good idea at the time, Kevin, but you were sadly mistaken. Same goes for that costume.

    Students at Glen Ridge High School in New Jersey were shocked and confused when the news trucks rolled up to get the scoop on a set of Facebook photos. Obtained by a nosy parent, the pictures featured underage drinking that led to the suspension of school athletes. Many saw the role of the photos in the punishments as legally questionable, but despite organized protests and other umbrage, many students opted to just take their own racy Facebook pictures down as soon as possible. Live and learn, everyone -- just don't post visual evidence of it happening on your profile.

    Even the charmed lives of beauty queens can be dragged through the mud by Facebook photos taken far away from the pageant stage. Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo discovered this firsthand over the summer when she was the target of a strange "blackmail plot" centered on profile images of her partying and carrying on in a less than royal fashion. She ended up releasing the photos herself, and soon everyone was wondering what the fuss was all about -- from venture capitalists to gossip reporters, Facebook has a tendency to get people riled up.

    Thinking about shoplifting some clothing? Here's a tip -- think twice before posting pictures of yourself modeling the hot merchandise on Facebook. Two students at Radford University in Virginia learned this lesson the hard way when a store owner was tipped off and found the incriminating images on Facebook. A stroke of the 'print' button, a trip to the police office, and the bust was complete.

    This story -- women who show little discretion in their alcohol consumption and even less when documenting their misadventures on their profiles -- seems to have started the most recent wave of Facebook embarrassments. While it's difficult for many to understand the personal pride and motivation behind such excess, it's even more mind-boggling to know that these exploits are being glorified online for all to see. Mom must be proud, and potential employers are surely beating down the doors.

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Tags: invasion of privacy, InvasionOfPrivacy, law, lawsuits, myspace, privacy, social networking, SocialNetworking



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