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The golden rule of the internet is this: don’t ever post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see. But there’s someone else you need to keep in mind: a judge.
Your social media posts are discoverable, and they can be used as court evidence. Those posts can work for you, but they can just as easily work against you.
Are you active on a social media channel and a participant in a lawsuit or facing charges?
Here’s what you need to know about the use of social media in court cases
Is Social Media Admissible in Court?
Social media posts, including text, photos, and videos, are admissible in court when the judge allows it. No rule automatically dismisses social media, but it does receive special attention, mainly if posts and messages can be attributed to you.
According to legal scholars, there are two schools of thought on the use of social media in court. The first says that social media is too difficult to judge because fake accounts, shared passwords, and hacks are so rampant. Additionally, social media posts appear after being printed out – not in their original form online.
That can allow tampering in its own right.
But the second school of thought says, “Why not?” It argues that the jury should decide whether social media evidence is worth its weight.
Either way, social media can complicate your court case. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid issues presented by Facebook or Twitter posts.
Your Social Media is Court Evidence – Now What?
Let’s say you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit, and the defense produces evidence from a social media account. Is there anything you can do to argue against admissibility?
The answer is yes, but it depends on your circumstances.
For example, let’s examine Tompkins v. Detroit Airport, a civil case.
Here the defense asked for unfettered access to data from the plaintiff’s account on Facebook. However, the defense didn’t suggest the existence of a specific post.
The court denied the defense and said that it was a broad request. You could put forth a similar argument.
In another case, Richards v. Hertz, the defense argued that pictures of the plaintiff skiing were a premise for accessing the plaintiff’s entire account. The court denied the request because the defense would also get access to a considerable amount of private posts an messages that weren’t relevant. The court took a video of the site and then provided the defense access to relevant materials.
In other words, you can argue that there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Even still, the golden rule remains: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a judge or jury to see.
Use Your Best Judgment on Social Media
While no one can predict when they might find themselves in court, you should be wary of what you post once a case begins. The best way to keep your social media profiles out of court evidence is not to provide the opposing side with any ammunition.
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