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Tagging a person on Facebook could land you in jail

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Anonymity is getting harder and harder to come by these days, especially in the realm of social media. And now, just days after the highest court in Germany ruled that Facebook’s friend finder feature is a violation of privacy, a New York judge has determined that tagging someone on Facebook is a violation of a protection order. Maribel Calderon received an order of protection — otherwise known as a restraining order — that prohibited her from contacting her former sister-in-law, Maria Gonzalez. But Calderon decided to ignore the legal edict, and posted a Facebook status in which she tagged Gonzalez, calling her “stupid,” and further stating,  “You and your family are sad:( . . . You guys have to come stronger than that!! I’m way over you guys but I guess not in ya agenda.”

And in the 21st century, a restraining order applies to much more than physical distance — you’ve gotta keep your cyber yardage in check too.

In issuing her decision, Acting Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci wrote, “The allegations that she contacted the victim by tagging her in a Facebook posting which the victim was notified of is thus sufficient for pleading purposes to establish a violation of the order of protection.” The entire ordeal has resulted in a second-degree criminal contempt that could land Calderon in jail for up to a year.

As the digital space becomes an increasingly common method of communication, a growing number of courts are taking online messages as a form of contact, expanding the previous understanding of restraining orders. Calderon’s case is by no means the first social media related violation the justice system has seen. As the Huffington Post notes, “in 2008, a judge similarly refused to dismiss a criminal complaint for contempt when a person sent a friend request though MySpace even though a no-contact Order of Protection was in effect,” and the next year, woman from Tennessee was arrested for using a Facebook “poke” on an individual she was banned from contacting.

So tag with caution, friends. Just because you’re keeping yourself 100 meters away doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself into trouble all the same.

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Lulu Chang
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