The world has completely changed with the introduction of social media. We have reached a point in which we are now more interconnected than ever, with social media sites constantly evolving, and available at our fingertips. Everyone we know has a Myspace, or a Twitter, or a Facebook page. Companies are utilizing the technology to market products and services, creating entire teams dedicated to social media strategy, ensuring an aggressive digital marketing strategy that will keep them ahead of competitors. And, individuals are using online accounts to apply and even interview for jobs through networking sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. There has also been an increase in the number of Facebook-based companies and event pages. Individuals are using the sites on their personal time to reconnect with long lost friends and family members, aiding those interested in reuniting, to come together once and for all. But, with the ease of information flow the Internet has brought about, one must be extra careful about what is posted to social media profiles. Divulging too much personal information can lead to identity theft and other dangerous crimes, such as human trafficking. Photos are being stolen and reposted without permission. And, certain slams can also spur defamation suits, so it’s not wise to air one’s dirty laundry in cyberspace or incite a personal attack.
Jacquelyn Hammond learned this the hard way. Allegedly, she had made a comment specifically geared at an old rival, Davyne Dial, who Jacquelyn claimed could have caused the death of her own child. Dial’s son was killed in an accidental shooting in 1976 at the age of 11 while playing with another young boy. Dial is a general manager at a local radio station. The specific comment made was “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid” although investigators had reached the conclusion years ago Dial had absolutely no involvement in his death. The incident was devastating and having to relive the pain of the child’s death was too much. Dial decided to file a lawsuit to ensure Hammond couldn’t continue to post derogatory comments online, stating one should not be able to just say anything he or she wants on social media with the intention of hurting others. She filed in part to “make a statement to the community that you can’t get on social media and run your mouth without consequences”.
Hammond claims her comment was in no way related to Dial or the death of the woman’s son. Her attorney commented, it was “mistakenly placed in one Facebook thread while [his client] was simultaneously participating in another online forum discussion.” The women were connected through online networks and had also known each other from their work at the radio station. Both women had evidently attempted to take control of the station.
The parties reached a settlement in the cases, and a judge in Buncombe County, North Carolina, approved a judgement in the amount of $500,000. This was a hefty price to pay, and it is very rare for a plaintiff to receive such a large sum in this type of litigation.