Social Media has quickly become one of the most popular methods to express feelings and share information.
Social Media encompasses sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to phone apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Similarly, many conversations occur through logged text messages on a smart phone. In legal proceedings, social media and other forms of electronic communications can quickly increase the tension between parties. Any electronic communication, posts, emails, photos, or text messages could be requested through the discovery process, or even produced as exhibits at trial. We have listed below a set of guidelines to advise you as your matter progresses:
- Do not discuss your case with others through any medium. Email can be forwarded or printed, postings on Facebook are seen by the public, photos can be taken out of context, and texting on phones all are considered statements released to the public. Friends and family members have no obligation to keep your communications confidential, as do your attorneys and their staff.
- Do not communicate with our staff on a device provided by your employer or shared with someone else.
- Create a private email account and use a password for that account accessible only by you.
- If someone else knows your passwords for private accounts, create new passwords.
- Do not comment on blogs or public forums about your case or your feelings towards others.
- Examine the privacy settings on your electronic accounts. Be sure you know what content is public and what content is private. Keep in mind that no electronic or written content is truly ever private.
- Do not access social media accounts, phones, email accounts, or electronic devices that don’t belong to you. Do not send messages from an account that doesn’t belong to you or while you are pretending to be another person. Doing so could be a federal crime.
- Do not ask friends or family to “friend” adverse parties so that they can obtain information about that person.
- If you receive concerning electronic communications from an adverse party, document the information and talk with us about it.
- If you have children, make sure you know the accounts and devices they can access. Don’t forget that accounts may be accessible on an old device given to your child.
- Think before you post; think before you click “send.”
- Secretly recording (or having someone else record) another person’s telephone conversations is a violation of federal and state wiretapping laws. It is also unlawful to record confidential communications. Logging onto another person’s email account or gaining access to records about another person may also be against the law or expose you to civil liability.
- In addition, you should not delete or remove information from any social media website as that could be considered destruction of evidence, spoliation of evidence, or obstruction of justice.
When in doubt, ask us before communicating through any medium. In today’s world of technology and rapid responses, social media can cause more problems than necessary. These guidelines, rooted in common sense, can help guide you away from bad situations. If you have any questions about the proper use of social media, please talk with your attorney.