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Who Bears The Brunt Of A Social Meida ‘Cyberslam’?

Robbie Owens, CBS 11 News
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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Director Spike Lee has reached a settlement with a Florida couple whose address he ‘retweeted’, linking them to the accused shooter in the Trayvon Martin case.

“All this is really scary, “says Elaine McClain, “and it’s a shame.  There was no reason they put our address out there without checking to see who lived here.”

Elaine McClain’s son, William George Zimmerman, once lived at the couple’s Florida home.  But, now, the McClains find themselves caught in the crosshairs of unchecked social media– and national outrage over the killing of the unarmed Florida teen.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who claimed to have killed the teen in self-defense, has not been arrested:  prompting protests and rallies around the nation.  Zimmerman has been in hiding since the shooting.

Lee apologized for retweeting the address and send a follow up tweet asking that the McClains be left in peace.  But, many social media/technology experts say an apology may be all that some ‘cyberslam’ victims—as they’re called—can often expect.

“If there’s a grain of truth in the statement, then it’s not considered slanderous,” says Peter Vogel, a partner at Dallas law firm, Gardere Wynne Sewell.  Vogel specializes in technology issues and says the case is a reminder to us all to ‘pause’ before pressing ‘send’.

“People need to think about the ramifications of whatever is posted, whether it’s Facebook, tweets, LinkedIn, whatever people are doing, “ says Vogel.  “They need to be mindful of the fact that anything that’s ever posted on the internet, they just have to assume is there forever.”

(Copyright 2012 CBSDFW.COM, CBS Local. The Associated Press contributed to this report.  All Rights Reserved.)

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