CINCINNATI — A man who was ordered by a court magistrate to apologize to his estranged wife on Facebook every day for one month says the punishment is a violation of his Freedom of Speech.
Mark Byron agreed to make the public apologies to avoid going to jail for 60 days for violating a protection order.
Byron says it was his frustration over his upcoming divorce and child visitation that led to his posting on the social media site in November. Even though he says his wife is blocked from his Facebook page, she somehow saw a picture and read comments from friends. Court documents allege Byron’s comments were intended to be mentally abusive, harassing and annoying.
“I just went on Facebook to vent,” Byron said. “I liken it to having a drink in a bar with a friend and telling them how I feel. It’s just that on Facebook you do it on a much larger scale and people that are interested in talking to me about it can say something and those who are not interested ignore it.”
The judge ruled the facebook comments violated a civil protection order against him.
“On one hand, I’ve been told that I can’t say what I want to say on Facebook, and now I’m being told that I must say something they’re telling me I have to say. This pre-written apology.”
Attorneys believe the judge’s ruling definitely raises constitutional First Amendment issues and it’s further complicated by the social media forum.
“What the courts have said is that the notion of preventing somebody from speaking or compelling somebody to speak raises the same constitutional First Amendment issues.”
Byron says he just wants freedom of speech and to see his son more often.
The case is back in court on March 19th.