Yvonne Schroeder, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2012 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the question “Your ex boyfriend posted lies about you on Facebook, what can and/or should you do?”
If my ex boyfriend were to make up lies about me and post them on Facebook, my first reaction would probably be to cry. After I was done with that, I would attempt to report the behavior to Facebook. I understand that they get many of these reports everyday and mine probably does not make it on to the high priority list. Nevertheless, it might be a good first step to trying to get the material removed from Facebook.
Aside from reporting the posts to Facebook, I’m not sure there is much more I can do unless the posts actually threaten me with physical harm. If I had immense wealth and wanted to sue my ex I could try taking him to court. I could sue him for posting libelous statements about me, however I think this is a drastic step and should only be taken if the lies about me would threaten a job or my position as a student.
If lies were posted about me the best thing I could do, would be to protect myself. I could block the person spreading lies about me from my Facebook page and ensure that I have strict privacy settings so that they could not post directly on my page. Furthermore, I would probably contact the people closest to me and tell them that the lies are not true. Presumably if they were good friends, they would believe me. I think that my best response would lie in damage control and making sure that whatever is said about me does not affect the relationships that I cherish the most.
Of course if I was a pettier woman, I could respond by posting my own lies about my ex and fighting fire with fire. This, however, seems like it would create more problems than it would fix. If I take the high road, I can attempt to maintain the relationships I do care about and ignoring my ex boyfriend and what he has to say about me. There is also the possibility that no one would even notice what was posted about me. If I fight back with my own lies, I’ve make myself look bad and people are more apt to notice a Facebook fight between two exes. So I think my best response would be to brush it off and deal with the consequences.
Yvonne Schroeder is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Public Relations.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.