An Irish man has avoided serving jail time after pleading guilty to posting an offensive status update on his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page. The landmark case represents the first criminal prosecution for damages done to a social media account.
The 30-year-old man, hailing from the town of Donegal, was charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1991, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a €10,000 fine.
The Defendant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was acquitted by a jury last month of raping and falsely imprisoning the same woman in her home on the same date her Facebook page was defaced.
According to police testimony, the accused went to the house of his ex-girlfriend in the early hours of April 6, 2011, to confront her over an alleged infidelity. When the accused her home, she noticed he had taken her phone with him.
After searching through her text messages and determining she was in fact in a new relationship, the plaintiff logged into her Facebook from her phone and posted a status update announcing she was a “whore” who would take “any offers.”
The man was arrested soon thereafter, and admitted to making the defamatory post, saying he had been upset over the woman’s new partner. His Defense Counsel described his actions as those “of a man scorned” and noted that he had been drinking prior to the incident. She added that he now has a new partner and job and was remorseful for what he had done.
The judge, who had no precedent to refer to in the world’s first “fraping” case, asked the prosecution to proceed, as no physical damage had been incurred, the Irish Mirror reported.
Judge Sheehan called it a reprehensible offense, which seriously damaged the woman’s reputation, though the libelous status was “fortunately” discovered quickly and deleted.
The judge imposed a €2,000 ($3,600 fine) after the defendant pleaded guilty to criminal damage.
So-called fraping is not new as a cultural phenomenon, though this is the first time it has resulted in legal action. Frape is a portmanteau or combination of the words Facebook and rape. Fraping is said to have occurred when a third party gains access to the Facebook page of an unsuspecting user and makes status updates, changes profile pictures or personal identifiers like gender, or sends messages to other users, often with malicious or funny content.
Up until this point, the most controversial things about fraping had been the term itself, with many taking offense that defacing a Facebook page would in any way be equated with sexual assault.