Can you go to jail for posting on Facebook?
Yes. This week, in State v. Simpson, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the admissibility of screenshots of Simpson’s Facebook posts in order to find that she criminally harassed a massage parlor worker by posting online that the worker would give “happy endings”. Although Simpson claimed the Facebook posts weren’t authentic, and there was no evidence that Simpson was, in fact, the author, nonetheless, the Court upheld the conviction.
The Court reasoned that a sufficient inference arose that Simpson made the posts because Simpson tacitly admitted to an investigating officer she was merely “sticking up for a friend”. That comment, by itself, was sufficient evidence for the Magistrate, the District Court, and a panel of judges on the Court of Appeals to infer, and therefore conclude, that Simpson was the author, and guilty.
LESSON: Don’t bully others online, and don’t think the First Amendment is going to protect you from bullying charges, or that the cyberworld is too high-tech for the rules of evidence to apply. What you say and do online CAN subject you to criminal penalties, including going to jail for your “speech”. If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s probably safer to say nothing at all.
Here is a link to the case: https://www.iowacourts.gov/courtcases/10134/embed/CourtAppealsOpinion
Jessica Zupp is an attorney in Denison, Iowa where she owns Zupp and Zupp Law Firm, P.C. with her twin sister, Jennifer. She specializes in Criminal Defense and Divorce and Family Law.