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Utah Crime & Courts
Tribune Justice Reporters
By Tribune Justice Reporters

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A screen grab from a video showing three men knocking over one of the formations at Goblin Valley State Park.
Could incriminating videos get you banned from Facebook?

Could being mean or stupid in real life get you kicked out of the digital world?

We’ve had a spate of viral videos lately — most notably the goblin topplers here in Utah, but also a kid in the UK who pushed over a street performer — that got people in trouble when they posted them online. So far in those cases the most severe consequences — namely criminal charges — are still pending.

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But in a somewhat similar case in Canada, attorneys are hoping to get a teenage girl banned from social media.

The Toronto Sun reports that the case began when an unnamed 15-year-old girl assaulted a classmate at school. The girl also reportedly forced a friend to film the incident and post it to Facebook.

The video ended up in court and prosecutors — charmingly called "Crown attorneys" in the Great White North — are now asking that the girl be given probation if she deletes her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. The attorneys also want the judge to ban the girl from using social media during the entirety of her probation, which could be as long as 18 months.

A judge will sentence the girl Oct. 30.

This is all relatively new legal territory and I couldn’t immediately find any cases in Utah in which similar sentences were handed down. However, earlier this year a judge banned a Georgia college student from social media for five years. The man had been convicted of making threats on Tumblr, a social blogging site.

A social media ban for sex offenders in South Carolina also sparked legal wrangling earlier this year, before finally being declared unconstitutional.

Taken together, these cases may foreshadow an emerging strategy for prosecutors dealing with the relatively new convergence of crime and social media. In the case of Utah’s own goblin topplers, however, only time will tell if repercussions span the physical and digital worlds.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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