It’s official. Thanks to a recent case, Commonwealth v. Cox, in Pennsylvania, a Facebook user may be convicted of harassment. This is a significant case because it means that you may be convicted of a crime if you use any social media website to harass someone.
In a recent Pennsylvania Superior court case, a young woman’s misdemeanor conviction for harassment was upheld. In Commonwealth v. Cox (August 2013), the defendant was convicted of using Facebook to harass another young woman who was in high school at the time. The offensive post related to an alleged sexually transmitted disease of a 15 year old girl, which was false. The young woman who posted the update was arrested, tried and convicted of harassment. She appealed her conviction, but lost that appeal.
This is a prime example of the kind of bullying or cyberbullying that is very common with young people who use Facebook and other social media websites. As a result of this new case, those who post harassing comments may face arrest, prosecution and conviction in Pennsylvania. An individual who posts such material may face civil liability as well.
Could Facebook Be Liable for Allowing Account Users to Post Harassing Material?
It remains to be seen whether the social media website itself could be held liable for failing to remove such posts, but for now, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) would probably bar such a case. The CDA was passed long ago, before the internet has become what it is today. The CDA provides broad protection to so called “internet service providers,” i.e., websites which host or otherwise allow others to post material. There have been a handful of court cases in which the CDA has been applied to prevent someone who has been bullied or defamed online from suing the hosting site. However, there have been some rumblings about amending the CDA because of the blanket protection it affords websites such as Facebook.
Pennsylvania & New Jersey Bullying Lawyers
If your child was the victim of bullying or cyberbullying and you would like to discuss a potential civil case, please call 800-220-7600 and ask to speak to Brian Kent. Mr. Kent is a former prosecutor who now brings civil claims on behalf of victims of crime, including victims of bullying.
Our attorneys serve bullying victims in the following areas: Atlantic County, NJ; Burlington County, NJ; Camden County, NJ; Cumberland County, NJ; Gloucester County, NJ; Salem County, NJ; Allegheny County, PA; Berks County, PA; Bucks County, PA; Chester County, PA; Delaware County, PA; Lehigh County, PA; Montgomery County, PA; Northampton County, PA: Philadelphia County, PA; New Castle County, DE; Kent County, DE; Atlantic City, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Newark, NJ; Doylestown, PA; Media, PA; West Chester, PA; Norristown, PA; Camden, NJ; Wilmington, DE; Newark, DE; Georgetown, DE; and New Castle, DE. Our lawyers can also obtain special admission in other states such as New York or Delaware on a case by case basis.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.