Woman gets $50 fine for Facebook comment

A county employee interprets the woman's Facebook comment to mean she visited an Illinois dog park without a permit.

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The Whalon Lake dog park. Jake Canine/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In an ideal world, people would instinctively get your Facebook comments. Second best, your words would at least be interpreted in the manner in which you wrote them.

One woman, however, must have been aghast after she posted on the private Facebook group of the Whalon Lake Dog Park in Bolingbrook, Ill., and was then served a citation carrying a $50 fine by the Will County Forest Preserve District.

As the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, her post was scarcely the stuff of controversy: "I was feeling bad that I haven't bought a pass and been bringing Ginger there but I'm pretty glad I haven't. So not going to worry about it until later. I hope all the doggies get better soon."

The dog park had been enduring a bout of kennel cough. While the comment might have been read as a message of sympathy, a forest preserve district employee saw the comment and sent it to a boss. Before hiss came to bark, the woman was issued a citation on May 20 for knowingly using a dog park without a valid 2014 permit.

It doesn't appear that any questions were asked of the woman first. Instead, authority smacked her wrist and told her not to be a naughty girl.

The only slight kink was, after receiving the citation, the woman said that she hasn't actually been to the dog park since 2013, according to the Tribune. One might argue that her phrasing had been imperfect. But to reward her with a $50 fine for a Facebook comment without even hearing her side seems a touch officious.

The fine and citation have now been rescinded, said the report. However, the Forest Preserve District's Executive Director Marcy DeMauro told the Tribune: "We treat any information like that as a tip and that has to be verified before any action is taken on our part. We would go to the dog park to see if that individual is actually there and using the dog park without a permit."

Somehow, though, a enthusiast in uniform seems to have obviated such practicalities and simply issued a sanction.

Somewhere in our heads, we know that everything we post on Facebook carries with it the potential of public exposure and complete misinterpretation -- never mind the potential of envy, scorn, trolling, rebuttal, and mocking.

But when the forces of law decide that its interpretation is fact, there's a rum spectacle in the making.

So next time you decide to post: "I could strangle half of Congress for their arrogance," please be prepared to call your lawyer within the hour.

 

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