Georgia teen sues two classmates for Facebook libel
After the girl's school, police, and Facebook refused to do anything about a bogus Facebook page created in her name, the 14-year-old filed a libel action against two classmates
Last May, Alexandria (Alex) Boston came home from her Cobb County, Georgia middle school, crying. Some of her friends had come up to her asking why she posted such horrible things about them on her Facebook page.
Alex's mother went online and discovered a fake Facebook page in her daughter's name. The page contained an altered picture of Alex that made her look obese. In addition to nasty comments made about others, this "Alex" is described as using drugs, being sexually promiscuous, and a racist. The girl is also described as speaking a language called "Retardish."
Alex's mother is quoted in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution
It was shocking. They had not hacked her Facebook page but created a new page. It had taken a lot of time.
Alex was quoted by Associated Press
I was upset that my friends would turn on me like that. I was crying. It was hard to go to school the next day.
The teen's parents contacted the school. The school said they were powerless to do anything because the creation of the Facebook page was done off campus. The family then contacted the Cobb County Sheriff's Office. But because Georgia does not have any anti-bullying laws on the books for bullying that takes place outside of school, the police could not help them. Officers suggested they contact Facebook.
The family spent almost a year trying to get Facebook to remove the fraudulent page. They were ignored — until the family appeared on CNN on Friday to discuss Alex's predicament.
Last week, Alex filed a libel suit in the Cobb County Superior Court. The family is seeking unspecified damages from the boy and girl believed responsible for the page and their parents for libel and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. There appeared to be no other recourse.
The family's attorney, Natalie Woodward, posed some interesting questions in an interview with WXIA-TV
Why didn't Facebook take it down? Why didn't the kids take it down? Why didn't the parents take it down? Why didn't the parents reach out to the Boston family?
As pointed out in the Washington Post
, although many states have cyberbullying laws on the books most, like Georgia, do not allow schools to take action against students who bully others while not on school property. Unless these laws are changed, it is expected more libel actions will be filed.
The Bostons are working with some Georgia legislators to amend the state's legislation to extend bullying to acts done away from school.