Family, lawmakers push for Facebook changes following son’s suicide

Posted at 8:11 PM, Jan 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-09 06:52:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Healing from the death of a child has been a long and painful road for Ricky and Diane Rash and their family.

The journey has also been painful for the friends of 15-year-old Eric Rash, who still don’t understand the reasons behind his tragic death.

Eric Rash committed suicide in January of 2011, leaving few answers as to why he took his own life.

The Rash family had hoped Eric’s social media account on Facebook would help them in their search for answers but Facebook denied the Rash’s access to Eric’s account.

Facebook cited privacy policies that forbid the social media company from providing access to any person who is not the account holder, even in the cases of minors.

The Rash’s appealed to lawmakers, but were told federal and state laws had not kept up with social media and therefore companies are within their rights to deny access.

It was then that the Rash family set out to change the law.

“The legislators told us if we got anything done in five years, we’d be doing ok,” Diane Rash said.

This week, four Virginia lawmakers in the General Assembly proposed legislation that will give families access to their deceased loved one’s digital assets, including their social media accounts. 

The legislation would add “digital assets” to the state’s probate laws, which govern how a deceased person’s property is handled when they pass away.

“Prior to this bill being introduced, you would be hard pressed to search the code of Virginia and find anything in there dealing with digital assets,” Ricky Rash said.

Senator Frank Ruff (R-Nottoway), said he modeled the legislation, SB914, after a similar law passed by Oklahoma lawmakers in 2010.

“Nobody understands social media until they’ve run into a brick wall like the Rash family has,” Ruff said.

Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes is also drafting federal legislation, although the congressman hasn’t outlined specifics of the bill.

The Rash family said the progress is beyond anything they could have hoped for.

Eric would have graduated with the class of 2013, from Nottoway High School.

“They’re planning on getting a life-size cutout of Eric, draping it in a cap and gown, and carrying it across the stage,” said a tearful Ricky Rash.

The Rash’s said they hope another family never has to endure their pain and suffering, but they hope this law will provide some relief to grieving families.