Funeral Industry News

Are Some Facebook Memorial Pages Breaking The Law?

January 15, 2010

Ryan Thogmartin is the CEO of DISRUPT Media | Follower of Christ | Husband | Father | Entrepreneur | Host of #DISRUPTu! and #FUNERALnationtv | Lover of Skittles DISRUPT Media is a social media content agency that focuses on storytelling for funeral companies. We use real stories to build creative strategies that achieve actual business goals.

Are Some Facebook Memorial Pages Breaking The Law?

imageThis is an important article that is coming from Canada regarding the mysterious death of a toddler. The Facebook memorial fan page for the young baby is raising some legal red flags pertaining to a “publication ban” that has been put on the case. Please read… I wonder if this type of situation could become more prevalent as more families resort to Facebook for memorial pages?

Facebook Condolences Complicating Publication Ban

As a grief-stricken family prepared the funeral for a two-year-old Oshawa boy slain in a basement apartment, thousands of people turned to Facebook to memorialize the child.

But as mourners ? some family, some friends, even complete strangers ? post condolences, photos and apparent theories of how the toddler was killed, they could be breaking a court-ordered publication ban.

Neither the victim nor the accused, the mother?s 26-year-old boyfriend, can be publicly identified.

?I highly doubt that most of the people blogging or on Facebook have any idea there?s a publication ban. So what is the law to do? Punish them … without them having notice that their conduct may be against the law?? said Paul Burstein, president of the Criminal Lawyers? Association.

A visitation for the boy, who police said died from bodily trauma, will be held at the Oshawa Funeral Home Thursday evening and the funeral will be in the chapel Friday morning.

?Every day that goes by this gets harder and harder. I am mourning the loss of my son the best way that I know how,? the boy?s mother wrote on the tribute page.

The message was in response to new comments that popped up every 15 minutes, several of which began with the preface, ?I don?t know you but ??

The very fact strangers are finding their way to the page presents a problem for the publication ban.

Facebook, like other social networking sites, straddles a legal grey zone, Burstein said. A tribute page can?t be treated the same way as a major news outlet, yet it also can?t be treated like a private conversation between friends.

As of yesterday, the group had close to 2,400 members.

?Unfortunately, the law, certainly in the last 20 years, has shown that it tends to lag far behind advances in technology,? Burstein said.

The repercussions could be significant, as the information could taint the opinions of potential witnesses or jurors. A serious breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, as well as a fine and even jail time for the perpetrator.