Violating a protection order that prohibited contact with another person, a teenager made a MySpace friend request to that person and has now been charged with criminal contempt. In this case, no contact means no contact. Regardless of a recipient’s ability to ignore or refuse a friend request, the request constitutes a contact.
However, the bigger issue is to what extent making friend requests on social networks to those who don’t like you can constitute cyberstalking or harrassment. At what point does making such requests cross the line from real social networking to a cause of action or even criminal charges? This isn’t an academic debate. As we’ve seen recently, the results can be devastating (including suicide) when fake profiles are used to become cyber-friends on social networking sites and then applied to manipulate or abuse an unsuspecting victim who doesn’t know the malicious intent behind the online relationship.
Unfortunately, the nutcases who do this type of thing will lead to occasional public outrage and bad laws being passed by politicians who haven’t a clue how to surf the Internet, let alone be able to use MySpace, Facebook, Linked-in, and other sites. And there will undoubtedly be civil suits by personal injury lawyers looking to make a buck.
One would hope that netiquette would rule the day so that everyone would play nice online. Human nature being what it is, that isn’t going to happen. The social networking sites are able to police themselves to mitigate the damage that can be caused by fake “friends.”