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Social Media & Its Influence In Court

*What you post on social media can be used against you in court in both civil and criminal trials.

Social media has brought about many changes in the way individuals communicate. Much of what we say is now put into writing. Unlike a hand-written statement, which can be shredded or lost, everything said on the Internet is permanent. In the past few years, courts have seen a steady increase in the amount of cases in which online statements are used as evidence.

In a criminal trial, the state can use evidence found on social media to prove charges against the defendant. The court can authorize police to surpass privacy settings and inspect social media profiles. In 2013, a Milwaukee man was charged with multiple felonies for not paying child support. The initial evidence was supplemented with Facebook photos of the man holding large wads of cash. In a similar event, a San Francisco man who was prohibited from owning a gun was arrested after posting photos of him with a new rifle. Both of these examples show how seemingly innocent, but foolish social media posts can lead to a conviction.

Evidence found on social media can also be used against you in a civil trial. In Doe v. Hofstetter, a woman sued a man for publishing her private photographs on his blog. The public blog served as evidence in the man’s conviction. In other cases, the defendant may utilize social media. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Inc., Abercrombie defended its decision to deny a woman employment, citing images from her Facebook page to be their reason for not hiring her. The images were used to support their argument in court. These situations prove that social media can be dangerous.

It is important to be wary of what you post online. Remember that there is no such thing as privacy when utilizing social media sites. Anything you post can and will be held against you.

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