In 2006, Twitter began, and Facebook shifted from a social media network for college students to open to the public. More than a decade has passed since then, and in this country, social media has mushroomed from a small number of users to the majority of the U.S. population. According to the Pew Research Center, when social media began, only 6% of Americans used it, but today, “seven-in-ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves.” Even though so many of us have become familiar with the ins-and-outs of this new way of communicating, most people still consider their social media channels as private conversations. It feels like they’re chatting with friends and family. They don’t realize they’re also providing a fountain of information about themselves that can and will be used by others. You may already be aware that marketing companies utilize social media to target their marketing efforts better. But did you know that your social media posts can be evidence in a trial? This applies to both your public and private social media messages.
Social Media in the Courts
Courts across the country have ruled repeatedly that social media posts may be used in a case. An example from earlier this year, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Supreme Court ruled that social media content may be used by criminal defendants. Florida criminal defense lawyer, Mark M. O’Mara, stated in the article “Anything You Post Can and Will Be Used Against You,” “When we got social media, it was a new tool we could use to find out information about people. You don’t even need to have a subpoena. People just hand information to you.” That information can determine the outcome of a court case. As reported in The Blog Herald’s article, “Five Court Cases Where Social Media Played a Part,” a father lost custody of his child, an employee was fired, and a worker was denied a disability claim in part due to their social media posts.
Dos and Dont’s Regarding Social Media and Your Case
Since your social media posts are viable evidence, there are a few things to keep in mind, and some actions you can take if you are headed to trial.
Don’t Post Things You Wouldn’t Want Everyone to Know
Since everything you say online can be examined and used, conduct yourself on your social media channels accordingly. Young people are often told not to post anything they wouldn’t want a future employer to see, and this rule can be applied to all of us. Think about the image you’re creating about your life. Imagine a stranger quoting your Facebook post or Twitter thread and tailor your posts accordingly.
Know the Social Media Rules of Your Job and Follow Them
Many companies have social media policies for their employees. Familiarize yourself with that policy and abide by it. If your employer states that you are not allowed to discuss company business online, don’t do it! Not even on your parents Facebook page.
Ignore Random Friend Requests on Facebook
Do not ever add someone you don’t know to your friends list on Facebook. Many of us receive requests from people we’re not entirely sure we know. One way to limit the spread of your online communications is by restricting your Facebook to people you know and trust.
Don’t Let People Tag you in Facebook Photos
So, you’ve been careful with your own Facebook posts, never publishing photos that could embarrass you in the future. But let’s imagine one of your friends is more careless and posts something you’d rather not have available to the public. If it’s a photo of you that you really don’t want people to see, ask your friend to take it down. But also, disable the ability to tag you in photos. That way, when your relatives and friends post those photos, all the people reading their posts, many of whom you do not know, will not know who you are in the picture. These are just a few things to keep in mind. Social media and court cases are a new and rapidly changing area of the law. It’s a lot to keep up with. If you have further questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. IMAGE: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain