Appeals Court: Facebook photos aren’t harassment

The Minnesota Court of Appeals says a Chisago County man cannot sue a person who put pictures of him on a Facebook page.

It’s an unpublished opinion, so it may not prevent you from suing, but the court rejected the complaint of Aaron Olson, who sued his uncle who had put old pictures of him on his Facebook page, according to the court’s decision (available here).

Respondent testified that appellant was not his “friend” on Facebook and that he intended his Facebook page to be viewed only by friends and not by appellant. Respondent claims that appellant had “unauthorized” access to his Facebook page, but respondent also testified that any member of the public could have accessed his page via a simple name search. Appellant, who lives with his mother, A.O., testified that he initially accessed respondent’s Facebook page via his mother’s Facebook account when he used her computer and she had left her Facebook page open. But appellant stated in his appellate brief that he later obtained copies of respondent’s Facebook page for the HRO hearing by conducting a search on Facebook that any member of the public could have done.

But Olson didn’t argue his point on the basis of the one violation that usually embroils Facebook: privacy. Instead, he argued posting the pictures constituted “harassment,” a charge the Court of Appeals easily turned aside:

To constitute harassment, words must have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another. Comments that are mean and disrespectful, coupled with innocuous family photos, do not affect a person’s safety, security, or privacy — and certainly not substantially so. The district court did not err by determining that the evidence submitted by appellant did not satisfy the statutory definition of harassment.

(h/t: Drew Gereats)

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