If you write something on the Internet, you can't later claim it was private. That's the surprisingly commonsensical ruling in the case of Cynthia Moreno, a California college student who sued her hometown newspaper.
Moreno, who grew up in Coalinga, Calif., a town of 19,000 best known as a highway stop midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, published an "Ode to Coalinga" on MySpace which described her hatred for the place in some detail. "The older I get...The more I realize how much I despise Coalinga," the 700-word blog post began. Moreno, then a student at the University of California-Berkeley, deleted it eight days after she published it.
Too late. Roger Campbell, the principal of Coalinga High School, saw the post and forwarded it to a friend, Pamela Pond, the editor of the Coalinga Record, who ran it as a letter to the editor. Moreno's family got death threats, someone shot at the family home, her father closed his business, and the Morenos moved out of town. Pond was fired for publishing the letter, according to a report by a local TV station.
Moreno sued Campbell, the Coalinga school district, and the newspaper's publisher for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. The court has dismissed her privacy claim — but the emotional distress case lives on. We have to ask: Shouldn't the Morenos, Campbell, Pond and the disturbed individuals who threatened the Moreno family band together to file a class-action suit against their hometown for the emotional distress they incurred from living there?