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Can a Court Order You To Delete a Facebook Account? 761

Posted by timothy
from the seems-even-worse-than-no-internet-orders dept.
First time accepted submitter jaymz666 writes "Can a court really order you to delete a Facebook account? When Asher initially appeared in court after the July 20 accident, the judge told her to delete her Facebook account, Kittinger said. Asher did not take it seriously, and was charged with contempt of court when the judge learned her Facebook page was still active. Seems like a big overreach."
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Can a Court Order You To Delete a Facebook Account?

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  • Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shajenko42 (627901) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:49AM (#41399291)
    A court can order your execution, I'd imagine they can order the deletion of an online account.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is the USA we're talking about. They are more likely to feel outraged about being told to delete a Facebook account than state-sanctioned murder in cold blood.

      In other news, gun proliferation is great (despite murder rates two orders of magnitude higher than civilised countries) but terminate a foetus and you're going to Hell.

      • Re:Probably (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#41399701) Journal

        I have seen no data on gun proliferation that indicates that allowing guns into the hands of law-abiding citizens increases murder rates. It does increase death in assaults and home-invasions.

        In places like Detroit or Washington DC or Baltimore City where legal gun ownership is basically non-existent, the huge amount of gun proliferation results in an armed criminal element and a disarmed citizenry. This creates a power dynamic whereby criminals have much more control and can be abusive. In truth, a lot of murders seem to be between criminals--they wind up shooting each other in gang turf arguments. They're actually afraid to pull their guns on private citizens, because the gun crime charge is like 10 times worse than the armed robbery charge (you can get 20 years for using a gun as a prop to threaten someone, whereas you may get thrown in jail for 2 years if you rob someone at knife point).

        In places like Texas and Florida, murder rate is lower; however 'justifiable homicide' happens more. Basically when someone gets attacked, they shoot back. This means more shootings happen between crazies and less between bullies who think they're malendrine gangster mafioso. The insecure, up-tight morons are a hell of a lot more insecure when people can shoot back; a gunshot draws attention and when everyone in the area has guns and is afraid mostly of being shot but feels like they can shoot you first, they all come looking for you. At least, the theory is strong enough that people believe it and are hesitant to pull out a gun. It's lose-lose: if you don't shoot someone, they might have a gun, and might shoot you (this is fucking hard to do--why would you pull your gun out if the other guy ALREADY has a gun pointed at you?!); if you do shoot them, someone might come looking to see if everyone's alright, and they might find you, and they might have guns.

        On top of all that, we have this whole culture thing going on. Look at the death penalty deterrent. In Texas, it's not much of a deterrent because you'll probably be dead before you make it to the court if you're planning on killing someone. In South Dakota, it's not much of a deterrent for unknown reasons. In Wisconsin, also for unknown reasons, when they abolished capital punishment they had murder rates quadrupal in 2 years, and re-instated it to get the murder rates back down.

        The same principle applies to gun ownership: local cultural factors will affect how people behave with guns. If they're all insecure hicks who think only of themselves, anything off their property is not their responsibility (no one comes to help you) and anyone on their property needs killin'; if they're more communal, guns simply make people feel empowered and they believe they have a social responsibility, and they use their guns to protect others when other (bad people) bring out their guns to harm innocents. There's a huge gradient between, there's crazy people, people who don't care, people who are paranoid, and people who are just inborn heroes.

        I don't think any country can call itself "civilized" when it decides the best way to handle society is to put the common man into a power-disadvantaged lower class. There are bullies and there are victims, and if we make all the common people victims then the bullies get to be kings by abusing people. We should be teaching men and women to fight and to not be afraid, not to cower in fear and leave everyone else to die if they can save themselves from harm. Humans are weak and useless, individual humans have no survival traits; we need to function in groups to live.

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @12:09PM (#41400623)

          In Wisconsin, also for unknown reasons, when they abolished capital punishment they had murder rates quadrupal in 2 years, and re-instated it to get the murder rates back down.

          Wisconsin abolished the death penalty in 1853, never reinstated it, has only executed a single person in it's history, and has one of the lowest per capita homicide rates in America. So whatever your source is, it's crap.

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Informative)

          by Sectoid_Dev (232963) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @12:19PM (#41400763)

          In places like Detroit or Washington DC or Baltimore City where legal gun ownership is basically non-existent, the huge amount of gun proliferation results in an armed criminal element and a disarmed citizenry.

          I can't speak for the other cities, but there is nothing overly restrictive about the gun owenerships laws in Detroit or the state of Michigan. Open carry is allowed assuming the gun is registered and CCW is legal after taking the course and the background check. The people of Detroit do often keep guns in their house because they know the police are not going to show up in any reasonable amount of time, if at all.

          Just because the city is a shit hole, don't assume the reason for that is one that fits your ideological bias.

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Informative)

          by SScorpio (595836) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @12:30PM (#41400937)

          What do you mean about Detroit and legal gun ownership? Michigan has very liberal conceal carry laws, and I know several professionals who work in Detroit and legally carry concealed pistol just in case.

          There were also stories several months ago about some break-ins in Detroit where the home owners shot the intruders. One of these was a guy in his 80s that killed one of the intruders with his shotgun. The media presented him as a hero, and there was no information about any charges against him as he was within Michigan's CASTLE law.

          Michigan as well as Detroit have open carry laws, you might be hassled by the police for carry around a shotgun or rifle strapped across your back but I (IANAL) don't believe it's against a law anywhere. To conceal your weapon you need a conceal carry license, and the gun being concealed must be registered to the person with the CC permit. To get a CC you must complete a CC training course and fill out a form and pay a fee.

          The only reason the majority of Detroit citizens couldn't own a gun would be if the majority of them are convicted felons. This is also not the case contrary to what you've heard on the news.

        • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @01:13PM (#41401579)

          I have seen no data on gun proliferation that indicates that allowing guns into the hands of law-abiding citizens increases murder rates. It does increase death in assaults and home-invasions.

          This is a trick statement used by politicians and NRA members. I understand what you are trying to say, but be aware that your statement is self-fulfilling since people who were law-abiding prior to using their gun in a crime will no longer be in that same category afterwards and can be conveniently overlooked.

          For all we knew, Amy Bishop was a law abiding biology professor before she went on a shooting spree next door to the building I'm in on the UAH campus and killed three colleagues and seriously wounded three more.

      • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

        by INT_QRK (1043164) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:57AM (#41400443)
        Of course, I get it. America bad. Americans stupid. I'm smart! Much better than dumb American. My guess is that you're either a bigoted (from my perspective) foreigner, or a self-rightous American liberal. Either way, up yours.
      • In yet other news... abortion is murder: the killing of an innocent human for the desire of the one who does it.

        Gun proliferation, while bad [and in some cases indicative of murderous thoughts], is not necessarily murder.

        Go on, get some grounding. You sound like a soundbite.

        I'm libertarian on most things. But if the whole purpose of the law is to protect the interests of the strong, while ignoring the weak, then I really don't see the point of it. When you approve of abortion, you cut the logical feet o

    • Re:Probably (Score:4, Informative)

      by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:57AM (#41399409)

      The court can only order your execution after you have been convicted.

      The article is not clear, but it sounds like the demand was made prior to conviction.

    • Re:Probably (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FictionPimp (712802) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:07AM (#41399601) Homepage

      They did this to Kevin Mitnick. He was initially forbidden to use any communications technology other than a landline telephone. Mitnick fought this decision in court, eventually winning a ruling in his favor, allowing him to access the Internet.

      Seems like a similar type punishment. I bet it won't be hard for a good lawyer to change the ruling as it falls under unusual punishment. You could claim facebook is a requirement for getting a job (which in some fields it is), that it would put a undo burden on you, or even that there is no basis for the punishment and the judge is violating her freedom of speech.

      The lady involved in this case is a horrible person, but her rights to let everyone know she's a horrible person should not be infringed.

    • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#41399771)

      Little does the judge know, you can never truly delete your account from there.

    • by urulokion (597607)

      Not really. A Facebook account is used for expressions of speech, so the first amendment comes into force. A court can no more order the deletion of a personal Facebook account than it can order the burning of letters or books that I have written. The courts in the US treat first amendment rights as so important, they one has standing to sue is a law or regulation could possibly be affected negatively. Usually one only has standing to bring a lawsuit only if they have been injure in someway by a law/regulat

      • A judge ordering you to delete a facebook account is not violating your free speech. He's not saying you can't say things, just not in that particular forum.

        This is akin to a judge ordering someone to whitewash a wall they covered with graffiti.

        You're free to say all the things you said on facebook, somewhere else.

        I didn't read the article (shocking I know) but if the the person committed a crime in connection with facebook, then the judge has a right to order you not to use it. Much like Kevin Mitnick wa

    • Re:Probably (Score:4, Informative)

      by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @01:49PM (#41402153)

      A court can order your execution

      Um, no, it can't. That takes a jury. The court must then agree, but, in the US at least, without a conviction by jury *and* a recommendation of the death penalty by the jury as well, the court cannot sentence the defendant to death.

  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:50AM (#41399309) Journal

    Never mind you being forced to delete an account, will Facebook wipe an account of their servers?

    • by ifrag (984323)

      Never mind you being forced to delete an account, will Facebook wipe an account of their servers?

      I'd doubt it. Probably like a version control system, nothing is ever really gone or lost. On the outside you only see trunk / latest rev, it will look gone at least.

  • overreach (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Danathar (267989) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:50AM (#41399313) Journal

    It's like constitutionality and the supreme court. What the court says is constitutional IS constitutional, regardless of what anybody else thinks.

    The same applies here (except for the fact that a higher court can say otherwise).

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:51AM (#41399323)
    She got off easy, after a DUI collision she should be in jail for a year or two.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:52AM (#41399331)

    Last I checked, it wasn't possible to delete a facebook account. You can only deactivate them. I realise it's a technicality, but in a system based upon technicalities, it could serve to be an adequate defence?

  • by pclminion (145572) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:56AM (#41399399)
    A judge ordering a defendant to delete evidence of a crime... Well, I must say that's a new one for me.
  • Taunting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:56AM (#41399401)

    When you taunt the victims of your drunk driving accident with a flippant post, I am glad a judge can make you take it down, or even your whole FB account if you've shown that you're not responsible enough to use it wisely. If the judge can put you in jail I don't see why it's worse if he tells you to stay off of FB.

    • Turn the fake outrage meter down a few notches, she may be guilty of being a dumbass but how did she taunt the victims?
      Was the post directed at them?
      Lets pretend like the message was intended for the victims is "My dumb bass got a DUI and I hit a carLOL" even considered taunting?
    • Re:Taunting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hazah (807503) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:11AM (#41399677)
      Except there was no actual taunt. Carelessness at best. And a judge being able to do this to anyone is absolutely horrifying.
    • Re:Taunting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FictionPimp (712802) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#41399769) Homepage

      Because being put in jail for a crime doesn't violate your freedom of speech. Being forced to delete your facebook posts/account does.

      If it was facebook who deleted her account, that would be ok with me. It's up to them to decide what kind of speech they want on their servers. But the government has no right to moderate speech unless it is causing a immediate and local danger (fire in a theater). This is the same with the video causing all that trouble in the middle east. Yes, the government could take it down, but doing so violates the core principle of this country.

      People look at idiots spewing hate as a bad thing. I look at it as a nice big poster that helps me separate out the idiots from the people worth spending my time with. In any case get a double dose of information. For example, with that anti-muslim video you learn that there are a few people in america who are douche bags and you learn that there are many many more 'muslims' in the middle east who are out of control, immoral, violent, murders just looking for excuses to bring their hate to the rest of the world. In the case of this ladies facebook post, you learn she is immature, immoral, and non-repentant. Basically, she's a horrible person. So if I was ever to meet her, I'd know to stay clear.

    • Re:Taunting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:19AM (#41399789) Journal
      When you taunt the victims of your drunk driving accident with a flippant post, I am glad a judge can make you take it down

      You can taunt your victims in person. You can taunt your victims by mail. You can taunt your victims by phone. You can taunt your victims via press conference (if the press considers you important enough to give you an audience). You can taunt your victims with frickin' sky-writing for all it matters.

      And yes, you can taunt your victims on Facebook.

      The fact that she chose to do it at all makes her an ass, but it doesn't take away her first amendment right to act like an ass.


      That said - She may have agreed to delete her account as a condition of a lighter sentence. Personally, I have a problem with games like that in general, but since it happens, and she took the deal, she damned well better hold up her side if she wants to remain on the outside of a cage.
    • Re:Taunting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:29AM (#41399959) Journal

      Well, according to how Facebook works, the analogy would be akin to the victims walking over to the perp's house to see the flippant remark posted on a piece of paper taped to the front door.

      IOW, the victims had to actually go out of their way, and actually go there to see it. How can that be taunting?

      Now if the perp was posting to the victim's wall, sending IMs, or suchlike? Okay, you may have had a better argument in that case.

  • Condition of release (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:00AM (#41399467)
    Sounds like she agreed to get off facebook as part of deal for less jail time. Other deals you might make with the judge. "Less time in exchange for serving in the military", "Less time in exchange for community service", "Less time in exchange for entering into rehab", "Less time with an agreement to avoid certain people"
    It is still kinda of awful. Judges should avoid restricting peoples first amendment rights.
  • Site constraints (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @11:20AM (#41399813) Homepage

    What if the site did not allow for account deletion? Facebook arguably doesn't allow this. Maybe you can deactivate, but never delete. Even if it did allow deletion, what if it were some other site that did not allow it. How could the judge order something that isn't (easily) possible?

    Now, suppose the judge orders you to give your password, but the site TOS forbids you from giving out the password? Can a judge order you to violate a TOS?

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