Axiomatic is the notion that “what goes around comes around.” These day, it’s often called Karma — a belief that one gets what one deserves, with the universe acting as judge and jury. And apparently, as social media becomes less congenial, Karma is now considered a threat weapon. Allie Scott – a 16 year old junior at Osceola High School in Florida – discovered this harsh reality after being suspended from school over comments posted on her Facebook page. Scott is also being accused of online defamation.
Florida Online Defamation Lawsuit: Karma Leads To Stalking Charges
Allie Scott was charged with Stalking under section 784.048. of the Florida state statutes. Since Allie is a minor, certain details haven’t been released, but we can assume she most likely violated paragraph (1) sub-paragraph (c) which defines a “credible threat” as one that causes a person to reasonably fear for his or her safety. The threat must be against the life of, or a threat to cause bodily injury to, an individual. In fact, it is a good thing Allie is a minor since the last paragraph of Section 784.048 states that you can be arrested “… without a warrant…” for any violations of Section 784.049.
Allie was only suspended for three days, and has to appear in court for her alleged crime. Given the published facts, her attorney seems confident the charges will be deemed baseless, then summarily dropped.
Online Defamation and Stalking Claims On The Rise
Unfortunately, online defamation cases like this are on the rise — and with the burden of proof falling squarely on the claimant, it pays to be prepared. Recently, Sweet and Maxwell, a legal information firm based out of the UK, reported a 50% increase in social media defamation lawsuits from 2009/10 to 2010/11. The same report shows an equally substantial up-tick in the amount of businesses levying lawsuits as a means to protect their brand reputations.
To be clear, this is a clarion call to the seriousness of Internet defamation, and the many forms it takes. With the ubiquity of social media, negative press is near instantaneous. So CEOs, Hollywood moguls and politicians aren’t the only ones who need to manage their brand. High school students seeking scholarships, internships and the like are in potential danger as well.
Steps Parents Can Take To Avoid Underage Online Defamation Legal Issues
If you’re a parent or guardian of a minor on Facebook, here are some steps you can take to protect your kid:
1.Become their “friend” immediately. Yes, this means set up your own account and monitor theirs.
2.Make them remove any posted comments you deem inappropriate. After all, you make sure their rooms are clean. Make sure their “walls” are clean too.
3.Get an online defamation lawyer. Put them on speed dial or secure a retainer.
When it comes to online defamation claims, you must be proactive, not reactive. All parents want to give their kids the best chance at success and silly cases like the one in Florida have the potential to ruin a career before it begins! So, if your child has been implicated in an online defamation scuttle, talk to an online defamation lawyer — the quicker you handle the situation, the less likely the incident will affect your child’s future.