UK court throws out Facebook harassment

For now at least friend requests on their own are not considered as harassment in the eyes of the law

A UK court has cleared a man of harassing his ex-girlfriend through the social networking site Facebook.

The case was the first of its kind and revolved around plaintiff Sophie Sladden’s claim that a friend request from her ex-boyfriend had left her feeling “scared”, “frightened” and “insecure”.

In his defence, 34-year-old Michael Hurst said that he had only clicked on his ex-girlfriend’s profile out of curiosity (yeah, right...) and denied that sending her a friend request was tantamount to harassment.

Instead, Hurst claimed that “Facebook friendship” as he saw it was not “friendship in the traditional sense”, citing the example of Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, who reportedly has over 1.5 million friends on the site.

“Do you think he knows them all personally?” Hurst asked the court.

Beyond reasonable doubt

This particular case was thrown out on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove their case "beyond reasonable doubt". But previous police involvement between the two ex-lovers that came to light during the hearing suggested that there was much more to this particular case than a straightforward Facebook friend request.

In keeping with this information, the judge told Mr Hurst to stay away from Ms Sladden.

Nonetheless, the fact that the case even made it to court all but guarantees that it won’t be long before another canny legal team sees an opportunity to mount a successful prosecution on similar grounds.

And when that happens then just about every half-decent looking female on Facebook (and probably quite a few guys) could probably lay claim to being ‘harassed’ by friend requests.

Personally, the only sort of online harassment we ever seem to suffer on Facebook are a deluge of ‘80s movie quiz’ and ‘Hot or Not’ type application invites.