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While it may seem like an innocent act, a virtual poke on Facebook could have real-world legal implications.  A Tennessee court has held that a Facebook poke violated a protective order and is considered a communication with an opposing party.

The Tennessee court told Shannon Jackson in its court order that she could not contact the petitioner, Dana M. Hannah.  This implicitly included poking on Facebook, which consists of clicking on a link on the recipient’s page.

Facebook defines a “poke” as:

“The poke feature can be used for a variety of things on Facebook.  For instance, you can poke your friends to say hello.  If you poke a user who normally does not have access to your profile, they will be able to temporarily see your Basic Info, Work Info, and Education Info.  When you poke someone, they will receive a poke alert on their home page.”

Jackson was arrested and charged with violating a Sumner County General Sessions Court protective order that prohibited her from contacting or communicating with Hannah, directly or indirectly.

In its decision, the court conveyed a strong message: that a contact on a social networking site is equivalent to any other communication, akin to a telephone call or a text message, for example.

Thus it appears that poking is no laughing matter in the analog world.  Jackson’s attorney, Lawren Lassiter told ABCnews.com that violating an order of protection in Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor that can be punished by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.  Jackson could also be fined up to $2,500 if she is convicted of the misdemeanor.


Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.