A woman in New York will face up to a one-year jail term after tagging her former sister-in-law on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB). Maribel Calderon received a restraining order, which prohibited her from contacting her sister-in-law, Maria Gonzalez.
An average interpretation of a restraining order is generally that physical presence is the only chargeable offense. This is specifically what Calderon thought. She went ahead and used her Facebook account to post a status in which she tagged Gonzalez. In her post, she called Gonzalez “stupid” and went ahead to post that “you and your family are sad”. She concluded that “I’m way over you guys, but I guess not in ya agenda”.
Calderon may have forgotten that this is the 21st century, and that common law has seeped into social media. One previous example is Germany’s high court, which recently ruled that Facebook’s friend finder feature violates privacy laws.
During Calderon’s case, which was presided over by Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci, it was ruled that contact via Facebook is still a violation of a restraining order.
Therefore, the fact that Caldron only contacted the victim through social media is still sufficient to establish a violation of protection. This ordeal resulted in Calderon being charged with second-degree criminal contempt with the possibility of landing her in jail for up to one year.
As the digital space is becoming one of the main methods of communication, courts are taking online messages seriously, and such communication is being regarded as a form of contact. Calderon’s case is not the first case that a judge has refused to dismiss despite communication being only in digital form. In 2008, a judge declined to dismiss a criminal complaint after a person sent a friend request through MySpace after a no-contact order had already been issued. During 2009, a woman from Tennessee was arrested for using Facebook’s poke on a person she had been banned from contacting.