“Fatal Attraction” dramatized the pre-Internet perils of an obsessed ex-lover — and a recent case out of Vancouver crystallizes the dangers of a Digital Age stalker. A Canadian teacher is embroiled in a scary international stalking situation. His lover-turned-stalker is hiding from authorities in real life, but is ever-present online — where she perpetually bad-mouths her former beau. The worst part: all the trash talk is costing him a job!
Paradise Found Leads To International Stalking Situation
In 2010, Canadian Lee David Clayworth was teaching in Malaysia. Back then, Clayworth ostensibly lived an exciting life. After all, teaching in the tropical paradise of Malaysia certainly seemed like the idyllic situation for an adventurous twenty-something. Heck, he even had a girlfriend in his adopted new country.
But since impermanence is a universal fundamental, Clayworth’s romantic bliss didn’t last forever, and after the pair parted ways, his lady fair, Lee Ching Yan, stole his laptop, hacked into his email and started a multi-year-long digital onslaught against Clayworth. Yan assailed his contacts with salacious, untrue stories of pedophilia and other crimes; she posted nude pictures of him online and littered dozens of social media sites with the vitriol of a scorned lover.
Malaysian Court Agrees With Lee David, But Nobody Can Find Lee Ching
Lee David Clayworth’s online reputation took an international beating, so he sued Lee Ching Yan in Malaysian court. Clayworth won and the court ordered Yan to pay $66,000 in damages. But sometimes even a judge’s ruling won’t thwart a revengeful online stalker. Despite the ruling, Yan kept posting defamatory material with a vengeance. She even skipped town to avoid a contempt of court jail sentence – but kept the online hits coming.
U.S. Search Engines Ignore International Stalking Court Order
In addition to the defamation damages and sanctions, the Malaysian court also ordered Google, Yahoo and Bing to block Clayworth’s name in their databases. None of the search engines, however, are paying attention to the order. Google was the only company to respond to the request, saying only that “users who want content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly.” Google clarified their stance by explaining that they “do not remove content from [their] search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content and violations of…webmaster guidelines.”
Clayworth has had mixed results with getting material removed from various sites. More than that, Lee Ching is one persistent person – every time Lee David convinces a site to take down a statement, she just posts it somewhere else.
For International Stalking Situations, Get A U.S. Court Order Instead
One of the reasons Clayworth is having a hard time getting Google and the other search engines to listen to him is because a Malaysian court order is not going to make U.S.-based megacorps to jump through hoops – but a U.S. court order might do the trick. Kelly Warner has helped many clients obtain effective court orders that compel Google and other search engines to de-index certain information. We’ve also had great success uncovering anonymous defamers. If you need help getting defamatory material removed from the Internet, get in touch with Kelly Warner law today.
These days, Twitter threats are as commonplace as the Internet itself! And it’s an odd phenomenon too, since, unlike in most blog comment sections, many people use their real identities on the 140-character social networking platform.
Perhaps Twitter’s frantic pace is to blame. After all, people do tend to tweet first and think later. And that’s all fine and well, but as an Internet lawyer, let me remind you that threatening people on Twitter can land you in some legal trouble with the FBI – and who needs them banging down their door?
Twitter Threats: Legal or Illegal?
Here’s the deal: any credible threat made by one person to another is illegal. And all it takes to trigger an FBI investigation is the fear of the person being threatened. For example, let’s say you’re having a back-and-forth Twitter war with a friend, it gets heated, and you tweet, “I’m going to kill you!” If your friend knows that you’re simply riled up, they’ll probably disregard it and keep on twitter-sparing without a second thought. However, if they really wanted to teach you a lesson, they could contact the authorities, claim genuine fear, and that’s all the FBI needs to hear to start looking into the situation.
Yep, it’s that simple.
Celebrities and Twitter Threats
Last month, two notable celebrity twitter threats hit the news. The first: Kyle Williams, punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers; the second: Taylor Armstrong of Real Housewives fame. Williams’ twitter threats were a result of his two fumbles that arguably cost his team a chance at the big ring; an upcoming book signing in New Jersey prompted the threat against Armstrong (a controversial figure in reality television, I’ve learned).
When the tweets threatening Williams hit the Net, various outlets called for an investigation into the people who let the athlete have it online; Armstrong, at the urging of her online followers and friends, contacted the police immediately after getting a couple of direct tweets indicating that she and her daughter would be kidnapped and harmed if she went through with a book signing in New Jersey.
As of the time of this writing, little has been reported about the Williams’ threateners; but authorities did report that Armstrong’s Twitter threats were the musings of a “disturbed” teenager – who will now, most likely, end up on some watch list.
Government Officials and Terrorist Twitter Threats
If you think the authorities takes threats against private citizens and celebrities seriously, try threatening the President or any other public official – the FBI will be on your doorstep quicker than a thirteen year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
Codified by Title 18, Section 871 of the United States Code, threatening the life of the President is a felony. And the statue is often applied to any elected member of the government.
And learn from the plight of of Paul Chambers; just your average guy, who was arrested, questioned, fined $1,500 and lost his job, all because he tweeted out an angry missive after finding out his plane was delayed.
What To Do If You’ve Been Threatened on Twitter
If you’ve been threatened on Twitter, don’t engage in an online battle with your opponent. The less contact you have with them, the better. Instead, make a hard-copy of the threat. Then, be sure to block that person on your Twitter account. Report the incident to Twitter and provide the evidence.
If you’re genuinely scared, contact the authorities. If possible, your local FBI office is the best place, but your area police will point you in the right direction.
So, what is the lesson in all this? Think before you tweet – because if you don’t, and get a little too feisty with your online language, you may just answer the door one day to find FBI agents at your door. Authorities take Twitter threats very seriously; do yourself a favor and pull back before you go too far.
Aaron Kelly is an Internet lawyer who has litigated many Twitter-related cases. If you need a Twitter lawyer, give the Kelly Law Firm a call, Skype or shoot an email over – we’re here to help with all your online legal issue needs. (And yes, we’ve also helped those who have been accused of making online threats using various online legal and free speech statutes.)
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.