... Just looking for opinions on a possible legal matter.
As a member of a chat forum, I was receiving private messages through the board's system from one of the Administrators, where she continuously talked of Forum matters, other members, other moderators, and so on. I thought this unprofessional of her at the time, but did not do anything about it.
Five months later, I was banned (by that administrator) from this public free chat forum. I had a hinky feeling I was going to be banned by her, so I made screen captures of many of the private messages she sent me, and uploaded them to a free online photo account. Again, these were her messages to ME, taken from MY inbox at this free forum.
When I was banned, I decided to let others know what goes on behind the scenes there and I published the link to my photo account (I used an old ID that I still had active on that site). That was yesterday. Today I received a message from yet another member, telling me that what I did was illegal and the corporation that owns the forum could technically sue me.
I can see where the Administrator could be in trouble because she was telling me details of internal affairs of the forum and the parent company, but would/could I be in legal trouble for publicly posting screen shots (screen captures) of private messages that were addressed to ME?
This other member informed me that what I did was libel (which in my understanding is publishing slanderous claims ie lies) or slander (which again, would be lies) but what I posted was the actual text picture of private messages written to ME by someone else. Nothing altered in any way. I did not post the top portion of the private messages that show the name of the forum or the parent company, just the actual text and sender's name.
I have since deleted the photos and made my account private to stop any further views, but I am just looking for any knowledgable information someone out there might have when dealing with things like this on the internet. It was not an internal memo, I was just a regular joe-blow member of the forum and not an any administration team. They were private messages and while yes, I understand that is a naughty thing to do, it's more like against 'netiquette' than anything else.
Again it is a free forum, anyone can join and can view all of the forums without even signing up for a free membership. I am only concerned in finding out if this could end up being a legal matter if the PR side of the parent company owning the forum decided it was worth their time and effort to take a young mother of three to court.
**I should add that the site is American. But even after investigating more (because I did before posting them in the first place), I find virtually nothing about posting private messages sent within a chat forum, and very little on publishing private emails. For example, a lot of it talks of releasing trade secrets (nope), releasing personal contact information within those emails (no real names, email addies, addresses, etc was in them), causing a company to lose business (it's a free forum, the parent company does sell items but this forum is a very small part of their whole site, and there are several other forums in it), etc. What I did also find is that sometimes the Fair Use Act of the US comes into play if it can be proven that the items were published for commentary, criticism, news, etc. Criticism definitely fits, as well as news (aka letting others there know what was going on). I did not post anything like her home address, phone number, etc and tell people to call her and ream her out. I just posted clips of what she wrote to me directly about that forum, and members and moderators there. I also read that sometimes ISPs have clauses where they don't want people doing this, but the messages were not received in my email, they were on the forum server only.
The fellow member that told me to be careful and scared the poo out of me is actually a friend of mine, so that's why I took it more seriously than I would have if it had come from the person who's PMs I posted.