YouTuber Could Be Subjected to Anti-Cyberstalking Order Based on His “Edict” that Viewers Confront Another YouTuber and “Let Her Know Nobody Likes You”

Start at Strober v. HarrisThe Florida Court of Appeal (Judges Darryl Casanueva & Nelly Khhouzam and Suzanne Labrit) has ruled that the case is a resounding success.

Rashida Marie Strober appeals an order dismissing her petition for injunction for protection against stalking filed against Thomas Jerome Harris….

Each Mr. Harris and Ms. Strober each earn a part of their income from their YouTube channels. Florida-based Ms. Strober focuses her attention on colorism. She defines it as discrimination based on skin tone within the Black community. Georgian resident Mr. Harris said that he’s “considered the most influential Black YouTuber in his field” and is “mostly focused upon Black people and their family”. While Mr. Harris said he doesn’t consider himself to be a shock jock, he acknowledged that people do.

Ms. Strober was invited to appear on Mr. Harris’s channel, where she gave an interview. This ended up becoming contentious. After the interview, Ms. Strober demanded that Mr. Harris remove her video. Harris said that he could remove the video if Ms. Strober paid for it, but she refused to pay him.

After that, Ms. Strober & Mr. Harris posted competing videos on various platforms where they criticised one another. Harris, on the other hand, focused his videos exclusively on Ms. Strober and one called “Dear Rashida Strober”.

Following the posting of these videos, Harris received numerous disturbing and threatening emails, texts, and telephone calls. These messages included: (1) photos of dismembered and mutilated human bodies; (2) photographs of young Black women in caskets; (3) photographs of Ms. Strober suspended from a tree; (4) her home address and (5) a photo of an area near Ms. Strober with the words “see you soon.”

Although the majority of the threatening emails did not identify their sender, others claimed that they were from Mr. Harris. Some were also sent to addresses linked with his name. Other messages stated that they were sent on his behalf. None of the threatening messages came from Mr. Harris’ email account through which he had communicated previously with Ms. Strober.

Ms. Strober requested an “injunction to protect against stalking.”

He threatened to kill her through YouTube videos, she claimed. Ms. Strober said that Harris falsely accused her child abuse and had published an image of her minor daughter online. The petition asserted that Ms. Strober had received hundreds of threats and other harassing messages as a result, attaching copies of some of them as exhibits….

In addition to other statements, Harris (1) instructed viewers to confront Ms. Strober publicly, and then gave them an “edict”, directing them to “let her know that nobody likes her” (2) daring Ms. Strober not to sue Harris over the dispute by saying “Let’s get to war, Bitch.” I love to be—I want one of you Black hoes to go to court with me. “I want to go to Court with one of your Black bitsches.” (3) I solicited financial donations from viewers to “make this little bitch mad,” and praised those who gave because she “Y’all are gon’ kill her!” …

Although the trial court concluded it did not have jurisdiction over Harris’ case, the Court of Appeal disagreed and moved to the merits.

The trial court also ruled that “… the petition for injunction would be denied” … [because]Harris did not send the threats or the videos to Ms. Strober. But … the trial court’s analysis reflects a misapprehension of the governing statutory standard.

[In relevant part, Florida Statutes section 784.048(1)(d) define “cyberstalk” to mean] …

To engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person … causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Cyberstalk is therefore not limited to messages that “communicate” according to the statute.[d]”by a replyent”, but also messages about “cause”[d]”To be communicated” also.

According to the court’s analysis, it was concluded that even if Mr. Harris did not send the video or threat directly to Ms. Strober, this would have ended the investigation. The court specifically ruled that:[a]The Petitioner allegedly made harassing, threatening, and abusive communications [sic]Videos were posted online for millions of people to view. The petitioner did not receive any communications from the Respondent directly. His publicly-posted video is not the only one..” This begs the issue of whether or not the “publicly posted video” was actually public.[s]” “cause[d the threats] to be communicated”—a crucial part of the statutory definition that the court conspicuously failed to address.

This narrow interpretation of the statute standard led to the dismissal of Ms. Strober’s explicit allegations and evidence that Mr. Harris was “cause”.[d the threats]”to be communicated” with the videos. However, she received them from him only after her appearance on Harris’s channel.

The court also never addressed Mr. Harris’s statement—in a video entered into evidence without objection, admitted to be authentic, and played at the hearing—giving his viewers an “edict” to harass Ms. Strober. The court also declined to decide whether Mr. Harris’s threats were “cause”.[d]”to be communicated by him.” Contrary to the trial court’s interpretation of the statute, none of these issues were resolved by the discrete finding that Ms. Strober failed to prove that Mr. Harris sent the threats himself….

The trial court was remanded by the court for the application of the law. The court remanded to the trial court to apply the law. Since “constitutionally protected activities” are not included in “course of conduct,” it will be fascinating to see how this plays out. One question that will arise is whether inviting audience members to have a dispute with another person is constitutionally protected.

A second question is: What kind of court order can the court issue, without making it unconstitutionally broad or vague (see David v. Textor (Fla. Ct. App. 2016)). A particular order which, in turn, bans Harris from being “communicat.”[ing]Or to cause.[ing] to be communicated … language … directed at a [Strober] … causing substantial emotional distress to [her]It could be that “serving no legitimate purpose” is both unclear (what is a legitimate goal) and broad (given the possibility of some listeners sending offensive or dangerous messages to critics).

The Court of Appeal, however, was correct in concluding, I believe, that the statute does not send direct messages to plaintiffs from the defendant.