By: Peter L. Cassady
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google Plus, Tumblr and other forms of “social media” have permeated our culture worldwide. An enormous amount of “posts” appear on social media on a daily basis. Much of it is harmless, but some portion of it can be extremely incriminating to the person who posted or to those about whom the post is concerned.
At a recent seminar in Birmingham, Alabama, an example was provided involving a car accident. The Defendant in the civil litigation which arose from the accident had posted a picture on her Facebook account of her with her dog, Pinky, in her lap driving. Minutes later, she posted, “Awesome. Just got in a car wreck.” Obviously this photo was extremely relevant to the case. The only obstacle was proving it was her who posted the picture and that she let Pinky drive on a regular basis.
Recently, two teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio, were convicted of rape and much of the evidence used against the two boys had been compiled by a local crime blogger who specializes in creating social media profiles for parents interested in their kids’ internet activity and online safety. The evidence that she compiled consisted of screen shots from the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages of those present during the night of the crime. After the conviction, two girls tweeted on Twitter threatening the rape victim. Those two girls are now facing legal obstacles of their own. Read the story here.
Employers are reviewing the social media pages of prospective employees and jurors are being evaluated by attorneys by following social media posts.
In another example, a New York attorney was disbarred after insisting that his client delete anything from his social media profiles pertaining to a pending case. An attorney can ask his client to deactivate an account, but never delete the possible evidence.
Social media may be fun and entertaining, but it can be extremely dangerous as well. Be very careful what you post and expect that employers, police departments, lawyers, school officials and just about everybody else you could think of will scour social media to learn more about you, your activities, and your friends. Do not post anything in any social media that you would not gladly report to your parents, grandparents, teachers, employers, and police department. People are watching and reading. Please be careful.