Court Rules MySpace Posting Not Private
A California court has ruled that a high school principal who sent a copy of a MySpace journal posting to a local newspaper is not liable for invasion of privacy.
University of California at Berkeley student Cynthia Moreno wrote a journal entry on her MySpace page complaining about her hometown of Coalinga, Calif. The post was titled "An Ode to Coalinga" and began with "the older I get the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga" and then went on to make negative comments about Coalinga and its residents.
The post was on Moreno’s MySpace profile for about a week before she removed it. Roger Campbell, principal of Coalinga High School, saw the post and sent it to the local paper the Coalinga Record where it was published as a letter to the editor with Moreno’s full name.
After the letter was published Moreno’s family received death threats and a shot was fired at their home. The family later moved out of town. They sued for invasion of privacy and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The claims against the paper were dismissed under the state’s SLAPP statue (strategic lawsuits against public participation), which allows media to move to dismiss lawsuits that target speech in an attempt to block it.
The court ruled that Moreno gave up any claims of privacy when she posted the writing on MySpace. "Cynthia’s affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and thus opened it to the public eye," the court said. "Under these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy regarding the published material."
Moreno’s claim against the principal for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court said that a jury should decide if the principal’s actions were "extreme and outrageous."