Former Municipial Court Judge

Former Assistant District Attny.

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Social Media and the Law- Law Offices of Tim Powers, Denton, Texas

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Tim Powers

Law Offices of Tim Powers, Denton Texas

940.580.2899 940.483.8000

Article by Tiffany Valdez

As a journalism student, I have seen how a black and white situation turns gray. I feel like it is very important to understand what our rights are and where we stand.

Our founding fathers never predicted that we would reach an age where a selfie would rule the world, or where we would have social media in general. One of the best perks of having social media is having the ability to express ourselves. But where does social media push the limit of going too far?

We are all aware of the First Amendment. We are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, so that means I can post whatever I want online correct? This is where social media becomes tricky under the law.

You are in fact protected by the first amendment when posting on social media. But other laws are set in place to protect its citizens online.

The law does not protect you from libel and slander. According to, libel is defined as “defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.” The ultimate case against libel is telling the truth. You cannot get in trouble if it is a known fact.

In instances with public figures and or public officials one has to have proof of malice. According to New York Times v. Sullivan, one must prove that the statement or article was published with the knowledge the information was false and misleading.

Framing and context are important in forming a posting picture online. We are at a day and age where we feel we can post whatever we want and however we want. But that is not entirely true. Social media lacks that face-to-face interaction which is important for decoding a message. Social media creates noise and static. Think twice before posting something that is meant to be hurtful.

Going along with the context, watch what you post. Others may not understand the intention of your post or realize it was a joke. For example, earlier this month, a 14-year-old girl tweeted to American airlines “my names Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of al Qaida and on June 1st. I’m gonna do something really big bye.” American Airlines was quick to respond that they take threat seriously and that the IP address was forwarded to the FBI.

Citizens are not protected by the first amendment if they make threats to the government or any public official. In fact those threats are taken very seriously.

Another act that is not protected by the first amendment is harassment. This includes but is not limited to stalking, hate crimes, and cyberbullying. These offenses occur with the objective to annoy, threaten or cause emotional distress.

One of the biggest cases that is definitely not protected by the first amendment is the solicitation of minors. Solicitation of a minor can be considered anything that is sexually explicit, which is “any communication language or material, including photographic or video image, that relates to or describes sexual contact.”

Social media is protected by the amendment but when used in the right ways. Social media is very subjective, so be conscious of what is being said online. Here are some tips to help draw the line of what is protected speech.

  1. Make sure to state something being your opinion to avoid libel. The Federal Communications Decency Act grants immunity to website operators and Internet providers for messages posted by a third party. Make sure what you say is thetruth.
  2. Be aware of what you post – some jokes may not be considered funny. Instead can be interpreted as a threat, hate crime or cyberbullying; which are all taken very seriously
  3. Solicitation of a minor is illegal no matter what justification you believe to be true.

If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney for your Denton County criminal case or arrest in Denton County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899

*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney. Criminal Defense Lawyers with Unparalleled Passion for Success Providing Quality Representation for your Denton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Carrollton, Corinth, Highland Village Dallas, Plano, McKinney, Denton County, Tarrant County, Collin County, or Dallas County criminal case