From the Annals of MySpace: Hometown Rant Ruled Not Private

For anyone who’s fled his or her stomping grounds for sunnier skies, the feeling of one’s hometown as a provincial backwoods is not unique and often engenders a considerable amount of derision from those who have manged to “escape.” But for one such expatriate–Cynthia Moreno of Coalinga, CA–angry hometown feelings caused a number of negative and even dangerous consequences.

According to WebProNews, the problem started when Moreno, now a student at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote a post on her MySpace page entitled “An Ode to Coalinga” that included a litany of Coalinga and its denizens’ faults. Moreno erased the post after a week, but not before the prinicpal of Coalinga High School, Roger Campbell, saw the post and forwarded it to the local newspaper, the Coalinga Record.  The paper printed the rant as a letter to the editor, complete with Moreno’s name.

As you can imagine, the town of 19,000 didn’t receive Moreno’s critique warmly. Her family was targeted with death threats, and someone even shot at the family home. Moreno’s father eventually closed his business, and the family moved out of town. Later, the Morenos sued Campbell, the Coalinga school district, and the newspaper’s publisher for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  However, the court ruled against the family, saying that by posting on MySpace, Moreno made her rant public and available to anyone with a computer–thus, any claim to privacy was moot.

The jury’s still out on the emotional distress claim, however, and is trying to decide if Campbell’s actions were “extreme and dangerous.” While I’m inclined to agree, on principle, that MySpace information is public, I do think Campbell was out of line. And it’s also strange that he visits MySpace and looks at former students’ pages.  Was he hoping to find something just like this? At any rate, the case speaks clearly about need for discretion when posting information online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *