Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are great ways to keep in touch with loved ones and to share ideas. However, you should be very aware that anything you post on Facebook and Twitter is potentially public. Even if you believe your postings are only viewable by a handful of people, none of whom would share your information with others, that’s not always the case. Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want to become known publicly. There have been cases of social media being used in personal injury cases (to prove that the plaintiff wasn’t injured), divorce cases (to prove affairs), attorney misconduct cases, and more.
There have been cases where social media has been used in criminal cases as well. In fact, recently Twitter has been making news in a New York criminal case. A 23 year old Occupy Wall Street protestor was arrested last fall for disorderly conduct after about 2,000 protestors blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. The protestor denies he knew that he was disobeying police orders to not block the roadway.
The protestor had a Twitter page, and about three months’ worth of tweets were deleted. The prosecutors in the case have been battling for months to obtain the tweets, which prosecutors believe will prove that the protestor knew that he was disobeying police orders. Twitter has refused to turn over the deleted tweets until recently, when a New York judge threatened to hold the company in contempt and to impose a fine if the tweets weren’t handed over.
This case should prove that you should be very careful about what you post and when you post it. Although you may delete something later, it’s still out there, and although social media sites may want to protect your privacy, they also don’t want to pay huge fines or spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees to avoid turning over your information.