Nearly everyone with a Facebook account has had someone tag an unflattering photo of them — or worse, had someone tag a flattering photo of them, resulting in hilariously disparaging comments. In that situation, most Facebook users untag the photo and move on with their lives. If the photo is particularly mortifying, perhaps they unfriend the offender. But how bad would that picture have to be to threaten to sue someone, a relative even, for harassment? A Minnesota man went to court to find out.
As reported on the Above the Law blog, Aaron Olson sued his uncle in Minnesota district court for harassment based on the fact that his uncle posted childhood photos of Olson on Facebook along with some snarky captions. While Olson’s uncle untagged Olson in the apparently offensive Christmas photos and recommended the seemingly thin-skinned Olson to stay off Facebook, Olson was determined to settle his claim in court.
Unfortunately for Olson, the district court did not think that tagging ugly photos constituted harassment under the law and tossed his case. This did not deter Olson, who then brought a pro se complaint to the Court of Appeals. The court, which denied his appeal, found that “comments that are mean and disrespectful, coupled with innocuous family photos, do not affect a person’s safety, security, or privacy…” and therefore do not count as harassment. In short, you can’t sue your uncle or your sorority sister or your old high school lab partner for tagging embarrassing photos of you. Until the law catches up with Facebook, you’ll just have to burn the negatives (or delete the digital evidence) before the photos are ever posted.
PHOTOS: Around the World with Facebook