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/Law.com 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.
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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 Law.com: "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: Law.com]