If a judge orders, as part of a probation deal, that you must stop ranting about Hitler and your family on Facebook, you should probably take it seriously.
An appellate court has ruled that banning a woman from posting about her family on Facebook is not an overbroad violation of her free speech rights, upholding a lower court’s decision.
In 2011 a New Jersey woman, known only as H.L.M., was arrested near the U.S./Canada border attempting to take her two young children across. She had run away with the kids recently following a lost custody battle, according to The Star Ledger. For that crime, H.L.M. made a plea that saw her accept therapy and psychiatric evaluation in order to avoid kidnapping charges.
But instead of going through with her therapy, H.L.M. decided to take to Facebook for her own sort of “healing process.” A judge learned in December 2011 that she had been posting weird, disturbing messages about her family, as well as Satan, Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Book of Revelation, according to court documents.
The judge called the Facebook posts “rambling, irrational, disturbing, and bizarre.”
Prosecutors argued that H.L.M. should be barred from “blogging” about her family, in order to protect the children from stumbling upon the posts either now or later. The judge agreed with the prosecution and the ban was enacted.
But for the next year or so, the woman continued to post about her ex-husband and children. She did take a small step to camouflage her activity, calling them “Camelot” instead of referencing them by name. However, her probation officer soon caught on and as she was charged again, she appealed the decision claiming a violation of First Amendment rights.
Her argument has been rejected.
An interesting ruling indeed–but as the L.A. Times reports, the ruling was unpublished, meaning it will have no influence on other court decisions. The upheld social media ban was seen as narrow enough to serve an important purpose, and does not prevent H.L.M from Facebooking/blogging about any other topic.
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