The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled that parents may be held liable over what their children post on Facebook. The case involved a fake and demeaning Facebook page allegedly created by a seventh-grade boy and a friend to target a girl at his school.
The court said the parents may be negligent for allowing the page to stay up, although it agreed the parents were not liable for creation of the page.
Lawyers are saying the decision, handed down Friday, "marked a legal precedent on the issue of parental responsibility over their children’s online activity," according to the Wall Street Journal (possible paywall).
The Journal's Jacob Gershman wrote that "the trouble started in 2011 when, with the help of another student, the boy constructed a Facebook profile pretending to be the girl. He used a 'Fat Face' app to make her look obese and posted profane and sexually explicit comments on the page depicting her as racist and promiscuous."
According to background material in the ruling, the girl told her parents about the fake page and they contacted the school, which suspended the boy and told his parents about it. The parents grounded him, but they did not follow through to see that the page was taken down. It stayed up on Facebook for 11 months until the girl's parents got Facebook to delete it.
"Under Georgia law, liability for the tort of a minor child is not imputed to the child's parents merely on the basis of the parent-child relationship," the three-judge decision read. "Parents may be held directly liable, however, for their own negligence in failing to supervise or control their child with regard to conduct which poses an unreasonable risk of harming others."
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