Social Media and the Law

Social Media and the LawSocial Media and the Law. In today’s ever social world, your best friends, family members and work colleagues are only a click away.  But what is an essentially a good avenue of staying in touch, can also be a dangerous one, too.

Imagine having a Facebook photo of you imbibing a bit too much at a cousin’s bachelor party, passed on and viewed by your boss.  Hardly an appropriate image of you to have representing his law firm, but where exactly do privacy and civil liberties collide with fire-able offenses or civil suits?

Let’s take a look below and see:

Where does Social Media Fall in legal terms?

It’s true, technology has been evolving at the speed of light, certainly much faster than the law can keep up with, so it only goes without saying that we need to clearly define our social media sites and how they apply legally.  Does an ex-spouse have a right to create a ‘fake’ Facebook page to besmirch her former husband, adding ‘likes’ to prostitutes and other nefarious activities?

Absolutely not, so says a NJ judge.

Basically the vehicle doesn’t matter when it comes to creating a false identity, if you are intentionally attempting to injury another party; it is against the law, regardless of hard copy print or electronic means.

Communications with minors:

What about adults communicating with minors via school websites and emails? Many of our schools and educational institutions use technology to help plan lessons, to communicate upcoming events and deadlines as well as a way to touch bases with how a child is doing at school.  But with the advent of this system, where is the line drawn for safety?

In Missouri, such a provision was enacted and was aptly named, the Facebook Law.  It states “No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a work-related internet site unless such site is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian.” And boils down to the fact that a teacher should never be in communication with a student or minor without the school administration or the child’s parent/guardian also informed.

The law is not without its critics, though.  Some argue that it cannot cover the range of student needs.  Some students might be too uncomfortable to ask a question in class and would prefer not to involve their parents in every aspect of their school work, others argue that it constricts the relationship a student and teacher can have, especially if an issue arises that might be after school hours.

Social Media sites and discovery:

What if a plaintiff contends she was injured during the course of work and is suing due to injury and mental distress (she says she can never enjoy going to the beach due to the ‘embarrasing scar’ incurred during said injury), yet her Facebook page shows her enjoying a little weekend soiree in flagrante delicto, complete in bikini, scar and cocktail in hand.  Can Facebook photos be used by the defendant for discovery?

The answer is not so clear cut and in most cases will be weighed by a judge to determine whether material obtained negates the plaintiff’s allegations.

At the end of the day, social media sites are here to stay.  And with people constantly texting, posting and taking photos to share with friends, they may also be opening themselves up for further consequences down the road, as well.  You never know what might be construed as ‘evidence’ later, a seemingly innocent comment or photo could easily come back to haunt you.