Parents can be held liable for children’s Facebook posts, court rules

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia court has determined parents can be held liable for what their children post on Facebook.

In a decision that could mark a legal precedent on the issue of parents taking responsibility for what their children post online, the parents of a middle school student may face legal consequences as a result of their son’s actions online.

The seventh grade student, along with another student, created a fake Facebook profile in 2011 pretending to be a girl at their school.

According to court documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the boy used an app to distort a photo to make the girl appear fat and used explicit language in the comments on the profile page.

The girl’s parents complained to school officials and the boy was suspended. However, according to appeals court, the page remained online for 11 months.

In April 2012, the girl’s parents filed suit against the boy’s parents.

“The unauthorized profile and page remained accessible to Facebook users until Facebook officials deactivated the account on April 21, 2012, not long after the Bostons filed their lawsuit on April 3, 2012,” wrote Judge John J. Ellington.

The court determined the boy’s parents could not be held responsible for the initial creation of the Facebook profile, however the parents’ “negligence” caused some part of the injury to the victim after the comments remained online for 11 months, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Natalie Woodward, the attorney who represented the girl, told the Wall Street Journal that in “certain circumstances, when what is being said about a child is untrue and once the parents know about it, then liability is triggered.”

The litigator who defended the boy’s parents is expected to appeal the ruling.

The ruling on Oct. 10 overturned an earlier judgment. The case will now be sent to lower court for trial.

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