Online Defamation and Idiot Ex-Boyfriends

picard-facepalm

 

(Picard Facepalm, source: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/facepalm)

I think this class has already created a blogging monster. I am finding all sorts of social media inspiration. My latest arrived via text message this morning…

I got to bed fairly early last night, before midnight (almost unheard of), and unfortunately missed a text from an ex-boyfriend. Upon waking, however, I was delighted to see that the content of the text was a polite, friendly gesture in an attempt to potentially rekindle or garner a relationship. The previous sentence is complete shit.

Because this post will not be as dramatic without the actual words texted, I’m going to go ahead and hold nothing back and post them.

First, some background (waits for collective groan and eye-rolling to cease).

*Ted and I met in 7th grade and were friends all through high school. During senior year, we decided to date. We dated up until I broke up with him in May of 2010. He took it very hard, said I blindsided him, etc (if only he’d had any insight as to how I was feeling, he’d have seen it coming about a year before that, but I digress). We didn’t talk until once December 2010, kind of just to catch up. Then nothing until I invited him to my college graduation party in May of 2011, out of niceness, to which he swiftly declined the invitation, telling me that he still wasn’t in a good place, or something like that (whereas, the rest of his family did attend.) Then nothing until HIS graduation just a month ago, I got a text out of the blue asking about my new phone number. I wanted to say, yes, and why do you have it? But I didn’t respond. About five minutes after that, I got, “Well, you’re no fun anymore apparently.” While I saw it as half-challenge, half-jeer, I still didn’t think it was worth a response. He was the one who felt the need to cast away our decade-long friendship because he thought I destroyed his life (I certainly will not bore you with the details of how I was not in the wrong, just believe that it’s true).

Anyway, so a month goes by and then I wake up today to the following text:

*Ted: January 20, 2013 12:06AM – “Hey, remember when you never sucked my dick? You should do it now.”

Pardon the language. But remember what I said about how I wasn’t in the wrong for breaking up with him?

My dad taught me that when you get upset in a situation, typically your first thought is wrong. Take a breath and maybe try the second thought.

My first thought after reading such a text was to take a screen shot of it and Facebook message it to his mother, with whom I am still Facebook friends. I would obviously accompany the photo with a quip like, “Just wanted you to know what a gentleman you raised – looks like he’s ready to be friends again.” Maybe something better than that. Something more rude.

My second thought was to post it on Facebook and have someone tag him in it (as we are not Facebook friends).

I was very, very tempted to do that, in fact. But again, first thought wrong, and in this case, second thought also wrong; plus, I figured I would probably be liable for public defamation or something. That led me to do some Googling and that led me to my blog.

Here’s what I learned:

According to reputationhawk.com, “the publication or broadcast of any libelous or slanderous statement about an individual or business that can be proven to be false and published with the intention of harming that entity’s reputation is considered to be defamation” (2013 – I added italics for the purpose of specification and further discussion).

Also, “much of the difficulty that surrounds successfully winning an online defamation case is brought about because the plaintiff must first prove who the publisher or writer of the statement is and, secondly, that the statement is false and written with the intention of causing damage” (2013).

I would be posting the photo on Facebook, with full intention of harming an individual’s reputation; however, there’s the whole “proving that the statement is false” thing that wouldn’t apply – he said it in a text message, from his phone number, so unless it could be proven that a friend of his sent it, it’s mainly pointing at him being a jackass.

I did some more Googling. In a few other sites I checked out JD Supra Law News (http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/when-do-social-media-comments-become-def-03377/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=media), WiseGEEK (http://www.wisegeek.com/how-do-i-prove-defamation-of-character.htm), and a WebX post on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/webxsupport/posts/399267430083359), the common notion was that a false statement has been made publicly, with or without the intent to harm someone’s reputation, but that might still do so.

I don’t know what I could say to make my post ‘false’ – he texted me that shortly after midnight and there it is. If I posted the proof with the truth, there it is. It’d be the difference between a tabloid writing that someone is pregnant or actually posting a photo of the pregnant person in question.

Also, thinking about the content of the text, that could harm my reputation as well, even if I was the poster. Technically, it makes me sound chaste, which really isn’t defamatory or negative to my character, if anything, it makes me sound pretty good. (And honestly, the argument being made in the text implodes immediately; I mean, honestly, the suggestion/question in the text is answered by the text itself.) Really, if posted, it would boost my rep and potentially crumble his. Win/win, in my revenge-opinion.

I don’t know. Because I’m so on the fence about it, I probably won’t do anything with it. I’ve already talked about it on a public forum (this lucky blog), but of course *I’ve changed his name, ultimately for his protection. I’ve discussed my options and again, in his interest, I won’t be posting it on Facebook.

This blog post has the smallest resemblance to online defamation, doesn’t it? I’ve posted something that may or may not be true, publicly, about someone, in an attempt to harm that person’s reputation. Perhaps leaving his name out of it gets me off the hook? I can’t fully intend to do harm to someone’s reputation without disclosing the person’s name, can I? Will this post be used against me in a court case someday? Well, come what may.

WiseGEEK says, “there are a number of defenses in a defamation of character case, with the truth being the best. If you find that you are the defendant in a defamation of character case, your best defense would be to prove that the statement that you made is true” (2013).

So, lovely topic for the blog and a really lovely way to start the day. I understand that this is a particularly risky post, probably for more unforeseen reasons that I can imagine, but I thought it would make for some discussion. Also, welcome to my stream of consciousness.

 

 

Reputation Hawk. (2013). Acc: Jan 20,2013. http://www.reputationhawk.com/onlinedefamation.html

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