This article takes a look at the emerging issue of social-networking in the legal space.
Social-networking has become part of everyday life with new uses and applications continuing to emerge.
The use of social networking continues to grow with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter boasting a combined membership of 730 million people. At the same time, the list of issues governing appropriate use of social networking and freedom of speech is also increasing.
Historically, legal papers were served in person or via the post, and jurors kept their deliberations in strict confidence, but nowadays things are a little different. The following are recent examples in which the world of social networking has played a part in the legal process:
- October 2010 – Australian Police undertake a national first when they serve court papers to a cyber-bully via social networking site, Facebook. Having previously tried to serve the papers in-person, via post and over the phone, police sought the court’s permission to serve the papers via the social networking platform. A written and video copy of the order was sent to the man’s inbox where he accepted the order and vowed to delete his profile page.
- October 2010 – A mother in a custody dispute discusses “…ripping her husband off for another $20,000”. The judge grants custody of the children to their father then orders the mother to pay $15,000 of his approximate $35,000 legal bill.
- October 2010 – A British schoolboy is charged after killing a cat and later discussing the incident on his Facebook page.
- October 2010 – A Brisbane man charged with murder may appeal to have his case permanently stayed after prejudicial information is published on the internet.
- March 2009 – A juror in Florida, US, admitted to the judge that he conducted internet research into the case. On questioning other jurors it became evident that eight others also researched the case. The judge declared a mistrial.
- February 2009 – A juror in Arkansas, US posted eight “tweets” on Twitter during court proceedings. The defence counsel sought a motion for a mistrial when one discovered tweet read, “I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of someone else’s money.”
- 2008 – A juror took a picture of a murder weapon and posted it to his social networking page. The photo of a 15-inch double edged, saw-tooth knife saw the juror charged with contempt of court.
- 2006 – The New Hampshire Supreme Court, US heard a motion to overturn a murder conviction based on pre-trial comments by a juror on his blog. The juror wrote, “…now I get to listen to all the local riff-raff try to convince me of their innocence”.
TIPS FOR SOCIAL NETWORKING USE:
- Remember: Once on the internet, it may as well be written in ink.
- Getting divorced? Stay off Facebook!
- Be aware of privacy tools available to you, and how to use them.
- Know who is in your friend network, and who you are adding.
- Don’t drink and type – everyone in your network can see it!
- Always be vigilant about the information you post online.