Court rules against family driven out of town due to MySpace rant

Cynthia Moreno will be careful about what she puts on the internet in future. Her family has just lost a lawsuit against their local newspaper after they were driven out of their hometown following a minor rant on MySpace by the daughter.

Cynthia, originally from Coalinga, California, had just visited her family and returned to the University of California at Berkeley. She composed a short blog entry on her MySpace page, titled “Ode to Coalinga”, which began “the older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga”. It detailed her frustrations with her hometown and made a bunch of negative comments.

She probably amused a few of her top eight with it, some of whom were likely from Coalinga themselves. One person who wasn’t amused, though, was the principal of Coalinga High School, who spotted it and sent it to Pamela Pond – the editor of the local newspaper, the Coalinga Record.

Pond considered this a submission, for some reason, and printed it on the letters page of the paper. The community was incensed. Cynthia’s parents, David and Maria, and her younger sister Araceli, claim that they received death threats and gun shots were fired at their home. Her father’s business, which had been going strong for 20 years, was forced to close because it lost so much money. The family had to move out of town.

The Morenos filed a lawsuit against the principal of the school, the newspaper and its publishers, as well as the local school district. They alleged invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. On 2nd April, however, the judge ruled against them, stating that:

“Cynthia’s affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and, thus, opened it to the public eye. Under these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy regarding the published material.”

The judge did rule, however, that their complaint of emotional distress should go before a jury. The family contend that the principal didn’t have permission to submit the blog post to the paper, so it’ll be interesting to see whether a jury agrees.

In the meantime, what do you think? It seems clear that a silly blog post shouldn’t have to force a family to move out of a town. Who’s in the wrong – the girl? the principal? the newspaper editor? Maybe just the population of the town for overreacting? Let us know your opinion on Twitter – message us at @techdigest.