Court Ordered Facebook Apology
March 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
A court ordered facebook apology. That’s a new one, right? Mark Byron was ordered to apologize to his wife via facebook or face jail time after posting a rude status update. Mark and Elizabeth’s marriage began to get rocky after having their son in July of 2010. Elizabeth then began claiming that Mark verbally abused and physically threatened her.
According to the Cincinnati news, after being exonerated of criminal charges, a civil protective order was issued against Mark, ordering him to stay away from his wife. Frustrated with the court and his wife, Mark wrote, “…if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband’s life and take your son’s father away from him completely – all you need to do is say that you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner…” on his own facebook wall.
Even though he had blocked his wife from his facebook page and the post was not addressed to her, she found the post and reported it to the judge. She believed it violated a court order, stating that Mark was not to, “to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury.”
The court gave Mark an option, either go to jail for 60 days or post apologies on his facebook wall for thirty days. According to the Cincinnati news, free-speech expert Jack Greiner said, “The idea that a court can say ‘I order you not to post something or to post something’ seems to me to be a First Amendment issue.”
“The court’s order to compel speech is as much a violation of the First Amendment as suppressing free speech,” Greiner said.
Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, “Forcing someone to speak as punishment for speaking” could violate Mark Byron’s free speech rights.
If you ask me, I agree with Greiner and Fakhoury. Forcing someone to apologize or face jail time isn’t giving them much of a choice. What do you think? Did the court violate Mark’s First amendment rights?