Facebook rants are as old as the social media platform itself. It seems like any time there’s a divorce or a family scuffle or a religious disagreement, we take to our little corner of the web to set the record straight.
Well, according to a state appellate court’s affirmation of a lower court judge’s decision, we may not have as much freedom with those Facebook rants as we originally thought.
The case in question involves a woman with bipolar disorder — unnamed in court documents to protect herself and her family — who often took to the social networking site to make what the court called “frightening” posts, stating they “referenced the Book of Revelation, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Satan, and Adolf Hitler,” the Courier News reports.
The original judge’s order stemmed from an attempt the woman made to kidnap her two children and take them to Canada. She ended up copping a plea deal to lower the charge of kidnapping and admitted to interference of custody. As a result, she was barred from making any posts “ranting about her children and ex-husband on Facebook.”
(She was ruled “not a danger to herself or others,” by a state psychiatrist.)
“You can talk about what you want to talk about,” the judge said, “but don’t reference (your husband) or the children. That’s off limits.”
The woman behaved for only a short time before starting to use code words to continue her Facebook rants in 2012. She started referring to her family as “Camelot,” to which the judge ruled that she had violated her probation.
After an appeal claiming that the judge had violated her First Amendment rights, the appellate court took up the case and recently ruled in favor of the judge.
“The court said the special condition was imposed with the purpose of advancing her rehabilitation,” the news site reported.
Even though some have seen the logic in the Superior Court judge’s decision to ban her Facebook rants, there are still many defending the woman by pulling out the First Amendment. One commenter on the Courier News site said, “If she is considered to NOT be a threat, then what do these so-called judges not understand about the 1st Amendment???”
Another said: “Our rights are now privileges, it seems.”
Still another: “Welcome to the progressive Fourth Reich.”
While it may seem okay on the surface for a judge to pull back this woman’s posting rights, keep in mind that an earlier court decision ruled that sexting between a teacher and a 13-year-old student was free speech and the case was dismissed.
Compared to that, this doesn’t seem so bad.
Do you think courts should have the power to limit Facebook rants (or similar postings on other social networking sites)? Share your thoughts in our comments section.
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