Posted October 12, 2009 2:01 pm by with 10 comments

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624824_restrainedLet this be a lesson to us all: be careful who you poke on Facebook. The click of that button can get you arrested.

For most of us, the note that we’ve been poked only elicits an eye-roll. But when Shannon D. Jackson of Tennessee poked one of her Facebook contacts, she actually broke the law—a restraining order. The order prohibited “telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner.” Somehow methinks poking qualifies as “communicating” or “contacting.” After all, once you poke someone on Facebook, they are automatically notified:

fb poke

Violating a restraining order is a class A misdemeanor in Tennessee, punishable with up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2500.

I’m guessing that her actual punishment will depend on her legal argument: whether she claims she didn’t know poking would count as contact or communication. Judging from these limited facts, I would have to say she was trying to subvert the court order and thought she wouldn’t get caught.

As far as Facebook’s liability goes, it’s probably negligible. But it’s a good thing LivePoke was just a joke.

This does leave one big question on the table, however—if the plaintiff here felt so threatened by the defendant, why didn’t she block (a little-known option in the privacy settings) or at least de-friend her on Facebook? From what I can see, you can only poke friends (or possibly people on your network with public profiles). Yes, the accused is responsible and shouldn’t have poked her, but shouldn’t the plaintiff have taken steps to avoid contact if she was distressed enough by their interactions to get a restraining order?

What do you think? Should the perp here have known her poke counted as contact? Was she naive or hoping to subvert the court order?

  • That’s just plain wrong… Shame on the “poker” for trying to communicate w/ the other person, who they knew they shouldn’t be contacting.

    Social media continues to push the envelope of free speech & breaking the law. 😛
    .-= Cory Howell´s last blog ..Welcome to SEO 101 Introduction to Internet Marketing =-.

  • Kristen Riley Owen

    The “poker” was or should have been aware. The “pokee” should have figured out how to block someone.

    Being “a little-known option in the privacy settings” isn’t exactly accurate, if you’re looking for it you can find it.

    If someone is going to go through the trouble to file a restraining order she should have the sense to make her profile private (in my opnion everyone should do this anyway) and at the very least de-friend this person.

    Now, just under a year in jail for breaking the order through poking, a little harsh. Some kind of punishment, for being ridiculous at the very least, should be implemented. Now, other person, please de-friend this individual.

  • If you know that Facebook even has that option, and if you know where to find it, then yes, it’s easy to find. But remember that most Facebook users don’t work full time in the Internet and social media, and few (even the ones who should be) know the first thing about altering their privacy settings. (And 24% of Internet users couldn’t navigate to—I have zero expectations for the average user to find just about anything).

    However, very recently, Facebook did put the block user setting on the main privacy page, which is under the settings tab.

    I doubt she’ll get the full sentence, though.
    .-= Jordan McCollum´s last blog ..Facebook Poke = Arrest =-.

  • Dave

    While I will agree it was a stupid move by the poker…but the reality is they shouldn’t have been Facebook Friends after the restraining order was placed. I blame both of them.

  • The poker shouldn’t have poked the pokee, but the pokee surely, having gone through the trouble to get a restraining order, would have found out how to remove/block the other person on Facebook?
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..Rel nofollow – Search Engine Optimisation Tutorial =-.

  • I am going to start using facebook soon (I know I’m late on the bandwagon…) didn’t know about these restrictions.

    So you can’t contact anyone on facebook?

  • The good news IMO is that it remained between them… someday soon I expect to see Facebook getting sued for not performing due diligence and allowing the event to occur.

  • It’s now a felony under the U.S. Code to stalk and harass people online. If all the person got charged with was a misdemeanor, she should consider herself lucky.
    .-= Michael Martinez´s last blog ..Why Brent Payne’s PageRank Sculpting report is bogus =-.

  • a restraining order is meant to stop harassment of any kind and sending a poke, as innocent as it may seem, is still a form of harassment. The poker should get the full penalty and leave the person alone. Why don’t people get it? If someone has a restraining order against you that means they are NOT interested in you…move on!
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Review of Law Abiding Citizen by Stephen Felt =-.

  • There are some very nasty people out there. I am not suggesting for one second that the person should have been poked, and both should have blocked the other party . . but did anyone consider that it may have been deliberate? What if there was a such a genuine dislike on the part of the pokee to the point where they deliberately left them on as a friend, almost saying go on, say something. It may have been a deliberate attempt to get them in jail. The poker, may have been there saying will I or wont I, and clearly the temptation was to great. May have even been making negative comments on the page to invoke a response. Like all legal matters, we will never know the entire story, just parts of it