Can Your Social Media Posts be Used Against You in a Lawsuit?
Most people treat social networks, like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as a platform to vent their thoughts, opinions and life experiences. Whether it’s through public posts or private messages, it’s important to remember that your actions on social media have consequences.
Can your social media posts really be used against you in a lawsuit? With more than 3.84 billion people using social media across the world, this is a question that judges are now having to confront. While every case is different, social media posts can and may be used against you in court.
Social Media Posts Can be Used as Evidence
Ranting about your ex-spouse, former employer or recent accident on social media may seem like a harmless act, but those posts can be used as evidence. Your opinions may hurt or help your case.
It’s becoming increasingly common for courts to admit social media content as a form of evidence.
Let’s say that a plaintiff claimed to be injured in a car accident, leaving him with severe physical pain. The defendant presents the court with post-accident photos of the plaintiff engaging in his normal daily activities, even attending the gym. After seeing the photos, the court orders the plaintiff to turn over his Facebook login information for further investigation.
Social media networks are public platforms, so it’s important to remember that the posts you share are not fully confidential. Always be mindful of the posts you share on social media, particularly if they may be self-incriminating or can be used against you in court.
On the other hand, you should be documenting any digital communication between you and the other party.
Yes, it is Legal to Use Social Media Posts as Evidence
Contrary to popular belief, social media posts are not considered illegally obtained evidence. According to the American Bar Association, “private” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “not public.” Even when posts are only shared with a handful of people, courts agree that users should have no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to shared content.
With that said, social media posts do have to be relevant in order to be used as evidence. Courts are less likely to grant discovery of social media content if the requesting party has not identified content with relevant information.
When accounts and all posts are kept private, the likelihood of discovery greatly decreases.
Deleting your shared content on social media may also have a negative effect on your case. Furthermore, deleted content can be recovered using forensic recovery methods.
Everything that you post on social media can become public record, whether you want it to or not. Be very selective about what you share on your social accounts. Before making any post, ask yourself, “Is this something I would say freely in public?” If the answer is no, don’t post it.
If you’re unsure about your social media use, consult with your lawyer. In this day and age, all lawyers should be able to advise their clients on how to properly manage their social media content throughout the litigation process.