Facebook Fatalities: Students, Social Networking, and the First Amendment

March 9, 2011
Pace Law Review, Volume 31, Issue 1 Social Networking and the Law

I. Introduction

Phoebe Prince, a recent Irish immigrant, hanged herself Jan. 14 after nearly three months of routine torment by students at South Hadley High School, via text message, and through the social networking site, Facebook. . . . Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said Prince's bullying was the result of a romantic relationship she had with one of the male suspects that ended weeks prior to her suicide.1

District Attorney Scheibel stated “[t]he investigation revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school. . . . The bullying, for her, became intolerable. Nevertheless, the actions—or inactions—of some adults at the school are troublesome.”2 According to the district attorney, “school administrators knew of the bullying but none would be charged with criminal conduct.”3

This is not an isolated incident. Facebook celebrated its sixth birthday on February 4, 2010 and announced at that time that it had over 400 million members, making it the equivalent of the world‟s third largest country, ahead of industrial countries such as the United States (308 million), Russia (141 million), and Japan (127 million). Indeed, Facebook's population only trailed China (1.34 billion) and India (1.2 billion).4 The rate of growth for Facebook has been exponential, with approximately 700,000 new users a day and 21 million new users per month.At this rate, Facebook will soon be larger than any other country in the world.6 Click here to read full article.