Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Social Media Warning: Consider the consequences before you type something mean about another person

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We received a call from a client who was on the wrong end of a social media barbecuing. The client wanted to know if we have laws to stop this kind of thing in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has a few laws on the books to deal with those sweethearts who are dispensing aggressive and foolish social media comments to the detriment of others. Here are some examples:

Privacy Action:

A person harmed may seek equitable relief, recover compensatory damages and a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees. The threshold for filing a suit requires one of the following to occur:

• Intrusion upon the privacy of another of a nature highly offensive to a reasonable person, in a place that a reasonable person would consider private or in a manner which is actionable for trespass.
• The use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name, portrait or picture of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person or, if the person is a minor, of his or her parent or guardian.
• Publicity given to a matter concerning the private life of another, of a kind highly offensive to a reasonable person, if the defendant has acted either unreasonably or recklessly as to whether there was a legitimate public interest in the matter involved, or with actual knowledge that none existed.

It is not a privacy violation to communicate any information that is already readily available to the public.

Criminal Law Statute Gives Rise to a Civil Claim:

Criminal defamation charges that can be made by the government against these people too. Conduct defaming someone else is prohibited under Wisconsin Statute section 942.01 et seq. This is not typically pursued by the authorities unless it reaches a level well beyond what most folks could tolerate. Knowing this, a civil claim can also be filed based on this same statute. It is available to a person harmed even if the District Attorney does not press charges, or if charges are pressed, unrelated to the outcome of the criminal case.

Common Law:

Wisconsin common law claims could also be applied to a person’s reckless use of the social media. Legal claims for defamation, libel or slander have been used. Generally, suits can be had if the person who:
• Makes a false statement communicated by speech, or conducted in writing to a person other than the one defamed, and
• the communication is unprivileged and tends to harm one’s reputation, lowering him or her in the estimation of the community or deterring third persons from associating with or dealing with him or her.

Case examples … See: Ladd v. Uecker, et. al, 2010 WI App 28 and Laughland v. Beckett, Appeal No. 2014AP2393

Recent Example:

As recent as 2015, the Wisconsin Appeals Court upheld a Facebook defamation judgment, and punitive damages award based on the defamation statute and under common law principles. See Laughland v. Beckett, Appeal No. 2014AP2393 in the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District I. In the case, John Beckett created a Facebook page in someone else’s name and posted disparaging and negative comments about Laughland. Laughland sued and won. Also see an excellent article in the Wisconsin Bar Site (WISBAR News) on this case authored by Joe Forward in August of 2015.


A good friend said it is better to sleep on a social media response than to just let it fly based on the emotion of the moment. Point well taken. Consider the consequences before you type something mean. Cyber-bullying is not funny. It might feel good now to throw another person under the social media bus, but be careful. Your social media victim could have the last say in the matter.

Don’t Post that Dumb Thing About Facebook Privacy

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It’s coming around again. That post about how the would-be legal eagles among us won’t allow Facebook to steal their images of their food or dogs or kids or all three at the same time. “Hear ye, hear ye, Facebook, by the power of UCC 1-308, 1-103 and the Rome Statute, I hereby declare that my picture of Rambo the golden/lab mix wearing a sexy nurse costume shall always be mine and not yours until an open capital entity…” [insert giant fart noise].

Stop it.

An “open capital entity” isn’t even a thing. The UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code, is at least a thing, but the reference to it in these posts is gobblygook. UCC 1-103 basically says that the drafters of the Code hope that it will be helpful in the real world and UCC 1-308 says you can say “all rights reserved” before you do something to avoid a scenario where doing that something creates new legal rights for the other party.

The Rome Statute sets the framework for international jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity (non-card game version), war crimes, and so-called “crimes of aggression” where someone uses a country’s military to do nasty things. If you are committing these crimes, a Facebook post will likely not help you.

If you really want to know the legal relationship between you and Facebook, you agreed to those terms when you signed up for the site. You can find them here. Nothing you post on your page will change these and, having just read through them, there isn’t too much the average person needs to worry about.