Recently there have been several cases in which people have been arrested for violating restraining orders by contacting the protected person by social media. I have written about this topic in the past on my blog. These cases are the first cases I have found in which someone was arrested for using social media and violating restraining orders.
In December, 2013, a man in Beverly, Massachusetts was arrested because he sent his girlfriend an invitation to join his circle on Google Plus. He claimed that he didn’t send the invitation and that he has no idea how it was sent. With Google Plus, people create circles as a way of expanding their social network. When a person is added to a circle, Google may send an invitation to that person. This is the equivalent of “liking” a person on Facebook.
Thaddeus Matthews, a radio show host in Memphis, was arrested after he “liked” a video posted on Facebook by a woman who had a restraining order against him. When a person “likes” a posting on Facebook, the “like” is posted on the Facebook wall of all “friends” and the person who posted the original posting. Although a person may claim to not understand the workings of Facebook, a court is likely to not believe this. The result for Thaddeus Matthews is that he is likely to be convicted of a crime.
Restraining orders require the restrained person to have nothing to do with the protected person. In almost all cases, this means that the restrained person can’t follow or spy on the protected person. This prohibition should include cyber stalking. Thaddeus Matthews should not have been looking at postings by his former girlfriend once the restraining order issued. As I recommended in my previous blog post on this topic, once a restraining order issues, the restrained person should “unfriend” the protected person.
Restraining orders can be difficult to understand and obey. A person served with a restraining order should consult an experienced attorney who understands domestic abuse orders. If that person uses social media, they should ask the lawyer about how to use social media and not violate the restraining order.