The Right to Remain Silent Includes Social Media, Part 1
It also includes public posting of information, most of which is innocuous enough; pictures of the kids at play, family pets, that new car or even just a plate of food someone is about to devour.
When used in this manner, it can be fun and keep people in the loop regarding the events going on in your life.
This is fine when talking about a concert you attend, or maybe a big upcoming event you’re excited about. One thing it should never include is information regarding legal problems.
Time and again, I have seen it come come back to haunt people in the courtroom.
Maybe you’re going through a divorce, and both parties are pretty bitter. Perhaps it’s a custody battle. Parents fighting over children can be complicated enough without adding the element of Facebook posts to the mix.
In considering this topic, I asked some of my professional colleagues if they had encountered situations where Facebook or other social media played a role in the outcome of a case (or cases). Every single one said, “Yes”, and much of it was not good for their clients.
One after another, they related their own horror stories of social media impacting a case in the negative. Many times, these revelations were a surprise to the defending attorney, with the client being the most surprised of all. “I didn’t think that would be a problem” is a common refrain, or “But I deleted that post!”
You may have deleted it from the active feed, but it’s still there, somewhere, and the authorities will find it.
Worse still are cases where the authorities actively pursue suspects via social media.
Everything we do online– EVERYTHING– is recorded somewhere. If someone wants that information enough, they will find it. Even in cases where hard drives are erased, the information is still there. Computer forensics is a very real science that authorities use to build cases. Experts can retrieve information from any hard drive, even one that’s been physically damaged.
This process is far easier when you add the element of online publishing.
Facebook is considered “Public domain”. It’s the online equivalent of standing on a street corner with a sign and shouting at passers by. The government also has agreements with various social media sites like Facebook and Google which allows them easy access to records. All this can spell big trouble for someone who decides to vent, or brag or, even worse, make threats online.
In part two of this article, we’ll take a look at some specific cases and legal situations where social media played a direct role in the outcome of a case.
In the meantime, you have the right to remain silent. Use it.