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Court orders man to apologize to estranged wife on Facebook

A court in the US has ordered a man to post an apology to his estranged wife on his Facebook page for 30 days to avoid a jail sentence for blasting her on the social networking site, a case that stirred controversy over freedom of speech rights.
Mark Byron, a Cincinnati-based photographer, was so bothered by his pending divorce and child visitation issues that he wrote a nasty note to “vent” out his frustration.

“I just went on Facebook to vent,” Byron said. “I kind of likened it to having a drink with a friend at a bar and telling them about things.”

The note implied that his wife was out to ruin his life. “If you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband’s life and take your son’s father away from him completely – all you need to do is say you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner and they’ll take him away!” the note on his Facebook wall said.

Despite Byron blocking his wife from seeing his Facebook wall, she learnt of the post which touched off a battle that resulted in a Hamilton County judge ordering Byron jailed for his Facebook rant.

To avoid 60-days in jail, Byron was asked to post on his page an apology to his wife and all of his Facebook friends, something free-speech experts found troubling.

“The idea that a court can say, ‘I order you not to post something or to post something’ seems to me to be a 1st Amendment issue,” free-speech expert Jack Greiner said.

Magistrate Paul Meyers said Byron could either go to prison and pay a USD 500 fine or post an apology and pay child support.

The apology was written by the judge and Byron has been posting all the news stories about his case on his Facebook page.

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