Think Before You Post

Posted by Jessica Travis in Criminal Law Blog












Think Before You Post

By Jessica Travis on Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In the new age of social media, people are quick to share their lives through social networking communities. The rise of social media has greatly impacted the way we communicate, network, and live our daily lives. Whether an individual is “tweeting” a recent experience they’ve had or sharing their daily activities through Facebook, their personal information is not only shared by social media users, but can always often be viewed by the general public. Therefore, although there are many benefits to being involved in social media, a person must understand the impact their involvement with sites such Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin can have on their legal rights.

With the recent popularity of these social media sites vastly growing, law enforcement and the justice system as a whole are becoming savvier with investigating these types of outlets to gather information about individuals. In fact, a person’s personal information, from the posts they write to the pictures they share, may be easily accessed by law enforcement. In turn,the police can use then use the information obtained for investigating, charging, and prosecuting individuals for alleged criminal activity. That is why it is vital for an individual to understand how legal rights can be impacted by their actions in the social media world.

Since 2005, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has developed Computer Applications and Analytical Techniques courses for their officers in which the officers learn how to use computer applications, such as Facebook, to conduct analytical investigations by observing information stored on these type of sites. Therefore, Florida police have become trained in navigating these social media sites in an attempt to obtain criminally damming information and using this information to aid them in their investigations.

Facebook is one of the main social networking outlets in which police investigate. Although Facebook cannot disclose the contents of an individual’s account without consent, law enforcement may get a court order to subpoena the Facebook records of the requested user’s content. Once the subpoena is granted, the police can then use the information they’ve obtained off of the individual’s Facebook page to build a case against them.

The police can also take an easier approach to investigation one’s Facebook page by simply following the individual’s activity log. A person’s Facebook page will

reveal the activities the person has been posting. These activities are stored in an activity log. This log includes a person’s posted information, messages, photos, and other shared activity. The police can track this activity and find any posting, photographs, or information they find suspicious in regards to criminal activity and use it to build reasonable cause to investigate that individual.;

An individual’s social media account can not only be used by law enforcement for investigatory matters, but it may also be introduced as evidence against the person in a court of law. To introduce evidence into court, the evidence must be authenticated as real. In terms of social media evidence, an attorney trying to get the evidence entered into court so a jury can see it must attempt to prove that the social media evidence is what it purports to be.

The concerns around entering this type of evidence is that social media accounts may be tampered with or hacked. These facts opens up the risks of fraudulent or fake social media posts being taken as real evidence and used against an individual. Using many tactics such as eliciting testimony, examining witnesses, and calling experts to examine the circumstances of the individual’s social media presence, an attorney may be able to present sufficient evidence to the jury that the contents of the social media page are genuine and authentic and therefore can be used against the individual.

Social media has a major presence today’s modern world. It can connect us to the ones we loves, help us network with our communities, and keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. However, without properly understanding the legal impact social media may cause on an individual’s rights, social media can be used to hurt a person’s right to justice. Therefore, it is important to contact a qualified attorney who can make sure your rights are being upheld.

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