A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: privacy

Can Manti Te’o’s ‘Girlfriend’ Sue?

By Meghan Lalonde

Diane O’Meara, who was never a college football fan, now sees her name in headlines next to one of the biggest names in the game: Manti Te’o, the Heisman runner-up and all-star linebacker from the University of Notre Dame.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you probably know the story: her Facebook pictures were used to create the persona of “Lennay Kekua”, a woman Mr. Te’o described as his girlfriend. He was devastated when she was in a life threatening car accident, and crushed when she was diagnosed with, and later died from, leukemia.

At first the surreal story of a player’s strength and perseverance in the face of tragedy captivated national audiences, but it soon became something much different: one of the biggest hoaxes in the history of sports. Turns out that Lennay Kekua never died. In fact, she never existed. “She” was really a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former high school classmate of Ms. O’Meara’s.

Following a damning report by Deadspin, many wondered whether Mr. Te’o had been involved in the hoax to win sympathy votes for the Heisman trophy. But like Ms. O’Meara, Mr. Te’o maintains he was unaware of the hoax.

Mr. Tuiasosopo claims he didn’t create the fictional character to hurt anyone and that the relationship with Mr. Te’o was genuine. He denies he is gay but is clearly a troubled young man. We hope he can find a way to come to terms with what he did and who he is, and is able to forge a better future for himself.

So it’s not that we wish him any harm, but still…

Mr. Te’o thought he was whispering sweet nothings to an attractive young woman on the other end of the phone. Not to mention that he lives in the macho world of football, and is about to enter the NFL draft. There’s no question that Mr. Te’o was harmed, emotionally and perhaps even financially, by the scandal.

But what about Ms. O’Meara, whose likeness was used as the face for Mr. Tuiasosopo’s faux love affair? She’s hired a lawyer but so far, hasn’t sued. Can she?

LASIS lays out the odds for Ms. O’Meara in the great American indoor sport: the civil lawsuit. (more…)

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Spare the Rod? Not in Somalia…Or Texas

By Jonathan Eggers

My father told me once about a prank he pulled at school in the sixth grade. I remember the story because it ended with him receiving three paddles to the rear and me in disbelief that a teacher had hit him. That was over 50 years ago.

In its October 15 issue, Time Magazine published an unsettling story about a 15-year-old girl (practically a woman nowadays) punished for letting a friend copy her homework – the punishment, a swift thwack to the rear by her teacher, with a wooden paddle.

The girl’s mother submitted a formal complaint to the school board. In it, she listed several concerns, none of which disapproved of corporal punishment (which she had consented to).

The story astounded me for several reasons.

For starters, the article says that “dozens of countries” around the world have outlawed hitting children in school and only some of our states do. Some of these countries even ban corporal discipline of the child at home. None of our states do.

And when I did a bit of Google-ing, I saw that in fact, the majority of countries worldwide have already instituted nationwide bans against corporal punishment. On this one, we stand shoulder to shoulder with — Somalia. (!)

Why don’t we have a nationwide ban? Are there any arguments to be made in favor of corporal punishment?

LASIS investigates.

(more…)

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Potential Employer Wants Access to Facebook Account

By Paul Irlando

A Maryland Department of Corrections policy requiring potential employees to hand over their Facebook username and password information has gone too far, says the American Civil Liberties Union. They’re probably correct.

In April 2010, after three years of employment, Robert Collins took personal leave from his job as a Corrections Supply Officer with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Planning to go back to work in November, Mr. Collins applied to be recertified and was called for an interview with a DOC investigator. During the interview, Mr. Collins was directed to provide his Facebook username and password. He did, and watched while the interviewer inspected his profile for several minutes. The interviewer also indicated that the DOC would continue to login as Mr. Collins for up to two months, while it completed its background check.

This did not sit well with Mr. Collins, who contacted the ACLU of Maryland. And then things really got interesting, with the ACLU issuing a press release and subsequent YouTube video about the DOC practice, and then, in January, sending a letter to the Maryland DOC questioning the legality of the practice and asking the DOC to rescind it. On February 22, the DOC suspended the requirement for forty-five days pending a review of the policy.

Is the requirement illegal as the ACLU suggests? The Maryland DOC said it inspects social media profiles to weed out potential employees with gang affiliations, a legitimate concern considering the nature of the work. Does an individual’s privacy right outweigh the DOC’s interest? The Washington Post reported the story, but didn’t address the legal issues. We’ve done some research. Here’s what we think: (more…)

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