One of the most fascinating aspects of the rise of social media as an integral part of day to day life is the way it affects and is affected by the law.
It seems to be a near daily occurrence that a new legal question arises, and if you look back at some of the high profile stories we saw this summer- Casey Anthony, the UK riots- social media, Facebook and Twitter were front and center creating twists and turns in the legal proceedings.
It’s kind of cool we get to watch the law evolve to allow for these technologies, if a bit scary- could a morning Facebook rant get you charged for inciting a riot? Is an angry direct message harassment? If one thing has become apparent, it’s that the law has to allow for the fact services like Facebook are unlike other forms of communication- take the case of what has been dubbed “the Facebook law” in some jurisdictions.
Under the law, educators are essentially banned from any non-work-related internet contact with minors who fall under the definition of former or current students- even if that particular pupil happens to sit at the same dinner table as the teacher in question. Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of “educational leadership” at Virginia Commonwealth University, seems to think such a zero-tolerance, zero-thought law is a clever idea. She says:
“Exclusive and private contact with your students isn’t educationally necessary,” she told the site. “In the same way that in a school we would say, ‘No, you may not lock yourself into a room with a student,’ this law effectively says, ‘No you may not lock yourself into a website where only you can get to the student.’”
Teacher Christina Thomas of Ladue, Missouri is challenging the law. Thomas is being represented by the ACLU, and her team contends the teacher’s 1st and 14th Amendment rights have been violated and that “there are better ways to prevent teacher misconduct than infringing on free speech by blocking contact on social media sites.”
The rub is that similar cases have yielded wildly variant outcomes in court– some judges come down strongly on the side of free speech, where some seem to be of the opinion that new technologies breed new interpretations of the law.
Do you think laws like this are necessary, or do they infringe on your rights?