A Social Media Cautionary Tale...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

   Last week I wrote about my decision to keep my blog anonymous. However, just because you're "anonymous" or your settings on your social media sites are "private", does not mean that what you write might not get you in trouble one day.

   Without getting into a legal discussion, please know that whatever you post on the internet can be discovered if you're ever a party to a lawsuit. A judge is very likely to make you produce anything that you have posted to the internet, even if anonymous or "private".  This applies to what your family posts too.

  Recently, 69 year old Patrick Snay learned this the hard way.  Snay was the headmaster of a fancy prep school here in Miami but a few years ago, the school did not renew his contract and he sued for age discrimination. The school settled with him and agreed to pay $10,000 in back wages plus $80,000 for other damages and pay his attorneys fees. It was a win for him. The agreement contained a confidentiality clause prohibiting him from talking about the case.  These clauses are often standard in settlement agreements.

   Snay's daughter Dana was so excited about the results of her father's case, that she could not resist posting this to her 1200 Facebook friends immediately after it was agreed to.

“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver.
Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Supposedly this is a photo of Ms. Snay (source Yahoo! Shine)

   Besides making her parents so proud with her classy Facebook photo and post, she cost them $80,000. The school's  lawyers found out about the post within four days of the settlement and successfully asked the Court to invalidate the  agreement. The Florida appeals Court ruled that the settlement agreement was violated and that the school did not have to pay  the Principal.( The case can still be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court)

    You've probably seen the news stories about people posting their illegal acts online and it leading to problems for them ( example:  Miami Fraternity was suspended from campus after posting about drug dealing and hazing) and how posting about what you're doing can lead to people robbing you (example: woman's home was robbed after she posted that she was going out to see a concert. The burglars were her Facebook "friends" ) but did you know that it is possible that comments that you make on your blog or others can 
also get you in trouble?

   Courts have found that bloggers may have a free-speech right to write what they want to online but are not protected from being sued for their comments, even if posted anonymously!  If a Court finds that your online comments are defamatory, you could be liable for them. The legal line drawn is between "opinion" and "fact". If you call your ex-boyfriend a "liar or a loser", that is likely to be found to be an opinion and free speech. But if you write something like ,"Dr. Jones is the worst dentist. He overcharges people and performs work that does not really need to be done", it could be found to be defamatory. 

    So tread likely and think before you hit "enter". 



Anonymous said...

Interesting! Not only the money but that girls photo and name is all over the internet now. I'm glad I did not grow up in the internet age!
xo jo

Susie said...

Japolina, Nothing is truly private, in this day and age. Dang, I am hoping no one sues me for everything I say is my opinion. Of celebs I've spoken about...well there are the picture, what were they thinking.LOL If I said my dentist hurt me tooth....wouldn't they have to prove I meant the dentist I have now, because I have gone to a few others. If I don't specify? xoxox,Susie

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

comcast sucks. there, i said it!

smiles, bee

vivian said...

very interesting and good advice!
thanks for sharing.
happy weekend!

Beth said...

Good advice!

NanaDiana said...

Amen- I think it is funny that your first comment is from Anonymous! lol. Very good advice! I know a couple of people that have learned the hard way what they said and it came back and bit them in the butt! xo Diana

Kathy said...

I'm one of the people that learned the hard way. I didn't know that my boss was monitoring my blog and he didn't like what I wrote about work. I learned my lesson. I write only about home, vacation, my cats, etc. I never want to go through that again.

Jan said...

Yikes, sobering post. I wonder how some of the celebrity gossip sites get away with what they right!

Linda said...

We are not as Anonymous as we would like to believe. And remember that www means the World Wide Web. As my dad always said, "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything." Thanks for your advice and warning. Linda@Wetcreek Blog

Dee D said...

Yeah, I just read that article yesterday about the Snay's. I'd be willing to bet my next paycheck that she'll be careful what she puts online next time.

Anonymous said...

So true, we all need " the internet and what we reveal" to be part of the curriculum now

Erika Lee @ A Tiny Rocket said...

this is good to think about. anytime I put something out there- I remember that I am putting it out there for even my mother to see.

Jenny Woolf said...

Worth a reminder. Well, I am sure that kid was her parents' favourite for a while!

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