Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Court: Fake Social Media Profiles Of Teachers By Students Ok

In the Social Media Age, the old adage that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never harm me" is more important than ever.  In a recent case, an assistant middle school principal sued 5 students and their parents because the students allegedly created fake social media profiles of him that were not flattering. 

The assistant middle school principal claimed that the students violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  The court dismissed one of the students from the lawsuit and it would not surprise me if the court dismisses the rest of the plaintiff's claims soon.  While the plaintiff may have a stronger case suing under another theory, I believe the students and their parents have a strong First Amendment defense that may defeat most if not all potential claims. 

Last year, North Carolina enacted a law that makes it unlawful for students to:

Use a computer or computer network to do any of the following:
(1)        With the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee, do any of the following:
a.         Build a fake profile or Web site.
b.         Post or encourage others to post on the Internet private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to a school employee.
c.         Post a real or doctored image of the school employee on the Internet.

While North Carolina's law has good intentions, I would find it hard to believe that it does not violate the First Amendment.  It would not surprise me if a federal court eventually rules that this law is unconstitutional.   

The bottom line is that schools need to do a better job of educating their students, teachers, and administrators about digital issues.

Copyright 2013 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved. 

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