Defacing Facebook is Now a Crime in Ireland

What do you do when you think your ex-girlfriend is seeing another man?  If you answered: go to her house, steal her phone and post that she’s a whore on her Facebook status, you could be charged with criminal defacement of property, at least in Ireland.  That’s what happened to a man who recently plead guilty to the charge after being acquitted of sexually assaulting the same woman in 2011.  Interestingly, the man was not charged with cybercrime like hacking, but under the country’s criminal damage act, which pertains to crimes like graffiti.  This seems to be a very astute way of addressing the issue because, as the judge in the case acknowledged, there did not appear to be any real harm to the woman other than to her reputation, and this was brief because she was able to delete the post when she logged into her account later.  This is arguably similar to graffiti, although in that case it is easier to quantify the harm because it costs money to remove or repaint over the offending tag, because it is nevertheless causes damage to something of value to the victim.  This is the first that I have heard of a Facebook profile being treated as the property of an individual — rather than the property of Facebook — but that may be an important way to address and put a stop to this sort of behavior.  The court determined that a financial penalty was the most appropriate and imposed a €2,000 fine.  This seems more fitting than trying the person as a hacker under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act here in America, which may be a bit of overkill for such a minor transgression.

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About Justin Kwong

An attorney in the Twin Cities and adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law where I teach a seminar on the law of virtual worlds.
This entry was posted in International News, Social Networks. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Defacing Facebook is Now a Crime in Ireland

  1. Seems a little overkill, but when compared to the penalties in the US if you get charged. I’d take the €2,000.

    Still waiting on the Blog regarding the Right of Privacy in the EU.

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