Someone posted an extremely derogatory message about me on her public Facebook site, including my full name and hometown. She has since then deleted the message from Facebook.
HOWEVER, anybody who googles my name (or uses another search engine) immediately receives the derogatory message about me (in all caps, no less).
Can I sue Facebook for making deleted messages accessible through search engines? Can I sue the person who posted this about me?
(I do not even have a Facebook account myself, and I never engaged in any cyber conversation with that person. I only found out about her post after I happened to google my own name).
Thank you. The exact language of the post is: "Watch out for X (full name of first victim) and Y (full name of second victim). They are fake and phony hoes from Z (hometown of both victims)!" The entire message is in all caps, so it's impossible to miss in a google search. Any potential employer, any friend, any family member, anybody who wants to find out anything about me will get this message (and not much else). It obviously damages my reputation, and it will likely scare away any potential employer.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Depending on the actual language used you may have a defamation case against the individual. Odds are that you would not be able to sue Facebook, though, because they are not in control of the search engines etc. They can only be held accountable for material on their site.
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Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.
That being said, the Federal Communications Decency Act generally protects sites like Facebook from defamation suits based on defamatory statements posted by the users of the site. If the comment was defamatory, you can sue the user who posted it. If Facebook somehow participated in making the defamatory statement (above and beyond merely providing the site and allowing it to be indexed or searchable by search engines), Facebook might be liable. However, the chances of that are very slim AND Facebook has a lot of money to pay attorneys to defend it. It almost certainly wouldn't be worth the lawsuit. You should see an attorney to determine whether you have a legal claim against the user. Also, you should consider consulting an internet professional; there are ways you can bury the offending message if you really want to.
/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004