Let 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:
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?