I have not been able to come to a satifactory determination in my own mind about the follwing fact scenario..... Suspect had a falling out with employer and was fired. Suspects husband then began a pattern of phone harrassment against employer(for which a criminal case has been filed). Thereafter the fired employee launchs a facebook assault on former employer with derogatory and untrue statments that are obvuisly designed to harass annoy, embarass etc. However, those communtications have not been sent to the victim directly, merely posted on a public facebook page for anyone to read. I think the statute contemplates a direct communication but there isnt much caselaw that i can find on the electronic communications provision of the law. Anyone else having these issues? Former employer is insistant that they are being harrassed despite the fact that no direct communications have been received. I know.....DONT LOOK AT FACEBOOK! but i want to be sure before i refuse a case with those facts.
There is a civil solution for that person to pursue. Untrue statments made in the public are either Libel or Slander. I would guess that Libel (written) would apply here as they are 'typed in a public place where they can be read'.
I don't believe the online harassment crime would apply.
If the former employee parked his car in a legal spot in front of the business and painted "this is a horrible employer" on the car, would that be illegal? How about a billboard? I think that the action you describe is not contemplated by the statute, and I suspect that, as soon as you started pursuing it, the arguement would either be free speach (to presumably "friends") or "prove I did it...someone is hacking my account"!
There is a case that addresses the issue from 1979 and deals with the free speech issue but it was before electronic communication etc. Private messages sent from one facebook account to another might qualify, but public postings seem to constitute free speech.
I always laugh when I see people trying to criminalize conduct that takes place on the 'scary internets' when, if done off line, would not be illegal. Perhaps that is because I grew up in the internet age or have a better understanding then some 'old people' do of the interwebs.
A law school professor asked us to close are eyes and try to imagine an off line corollary to the conduct that is taking place online, such as exactly what the above poster, Lisa, mentioned. If the off line conduct is legal or Constitutionally protected, then the same is true for the conduct that took place online.
Just because something is on the internet does not somehow make it more scarier or criminal, such as the example complained about here by the OP, or the examples used in other posts here dealing with pics posted online or the online impersonnation laws.
But many of the 'old people' in the Legislature or in public office (especially judges) lack a basic understanding of how the internet works and how stuff online applies in real life.
Posts: 30 | Location: Texas | Registered: December 07, 2011
Here is some case law that can help the OP and others here in dealing with this kind of stuff. It is a recent Federal case from two weeks ago in which the Federal court found these kinds of internet harassment laws to be Unconstitutional. The case is U.S. v. Cassidy, __ F.Supp.2d __, 2011 WL 6260872 (U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland 2011).
This case hits squarely on Texas's online impersonation law. The Federal court held that "inflict[ing] substantial emotional distress" is not enough and that "content-based restriction of speech "must survive strict scrutiny".'
The charge against the defendant "amounts to a content-based restriction because it limits speech on the basis of whether that speech is emotionally distressing to [the victim]." U.S. v. Cassidy, supra. The judge therefore held that because �the Government's interest in criminalizing speech that inflicts emotional distress is not a compelling one, the statute does not survive strict scrutiny." U.S. v. Cassidy, supra.
Here is another story that adds credence to the "My Facebook account was hacked" defense.
"The Ramnit worm has been spreading since April 2010, but was only recently adapted to target Facebook details, according to computer security experts. It was previously used by cyber criminals to steal login credentials for other services, including online banking.
A "worm" is distinct from a normal computer virus in that it can reproduce itself without needing to attach itself to an existing program. This ability means worms can spread very rapidly online."
That is why, some days, some of us feel like glorified babysitters, or life referees. I hope it is understood that i am not wanting to file charges for the public facebook comments. I just wanted to make sure i wasnt missing something that one of the other jurisdictions found that might criminalize such conduct. We dont see to many facebook harassment cases out here.
I was just musing over the fact that facebook really breaks down the walls with their universal, one-term-reaches-many approach to this great blue marble: "poke" can mean so much to so many. You can reach out across the miles to a friend from years ago with a cordial poke --you can refer to a flu shot as a poke; you can talk about jamming a stick in your eye as a poke, and you can describe the incarcerated community's,...well, you get the idea.