Did you know that a single Facebook post can land you in jail? Its true, an acting judge in Westchester NY recently ruled that a ‘tag’ notification on Facebook violated a protective order. The result of the violation; second-degree contempt, which can lead to punishment of up to a year in jail. In January, the a judge issued a restraining order against Maria Gonzalez, prohibiting her from communicating with her former sister-in-law, Maribel Calderon. Restraining orders are issued to prevent person from making contact with protected individuals. Traditionally, courts interpreted contact to mean direct communications in person, mail, email, phone, voicemail or even text. Facebook tags, however, present a slightly different form of contact.
Unlike Facebook messages, tagging someone identifies the tagged person on the poster’s Facebook page. The tag, however, has the concurrent effect of linking to the identified person’s profile; thereby notifying them of the post. Ms. Gonzalez tagged Calderon in a post on her (Gonzalez’s) timeline calling Calderon stupid and writing “you have a sad family.” Gonzalez argued the post did not violate the protective order since there was no contact aimed directly at Calderon. Acting Westchester (NY) County Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci felt otherwise writing a restraining order includes “contacting the protected party by electronic or other means.” Other means, it seems, is through personal posts put out on social media.
And Social Media posts aren’t just evidence of orders of protection violations, they are also grounds for supporting the issuance of restraining orders. In 2013, a court granted an order of protection for actress Ashley Tinsdale against an alleged stalker. Tinsdale’s lawyers presented evidence of over 19,000 tweets that the alleged stalker posted about the actress (an average of 100 tweets per day).
The bottom line: Naming another on a social media post, even one that is directed to the twittersphere or Facebook community, rather than toward a particular individual, is sufficient contact for purposes of supporting restraining orders or violations thereof. We should all keep our posts positives –even more so if we have been told to stay away!!!