Social Media and the Law
We are in a social media-driven day and age. On average, internet users spend about 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking platforms. Saima Salim, How much time do you spend on social media? Research says 142 minutes per day.
With such a significant amount of time spent on these sites, it is wise to be aware of some of the legal issues you could face. There are many aspects where social media and the law collide.
First of all, consider the privacy of the information you post online (or the lack thereof). How often do you put something online and consider whether you would want a judge or prosecutor to view the evidence? Courts are seeing social media used in cases more and more often, especially in divorce cases. If you post something online, it is very possible that it can be used against you in court.
Social media sites are built to collect data from you. That is one of their primary goals. They are fueled by companies who advertise to your specific needs and wants. They use a multitude of tricks to get you to give them information, and anyone – including the government – can be collecting this data from you. As the ABA eloquently put it, “In Europe, Canada, and other countries across the world, protection of each citizen’s private information is considered to be a human right, secured by statute and enforced by the government and private causes of action. In the United States, by contrast, only certain classes of information are protected under federal law – financial transactions, health care transactions, and information regarding children under the age of 13 – while nearly all other data is considered to be fair game for any business or government agency that chooses to collect, store, and use the information. ”
This is not meant to scare you away from using social media at all. Rather, it is a caution to be wary of what you post, as it may reach more eyes than you intend.
You could be suspended from school, fired from your job – a bus driver (wrongfully) lost his job because of a Facebook post about a child who could not afford the school’s lunch. Your employer can look at your social media accounts to decide on whether to hire you or fire you. You can also be terminated for posting something contrary to your company’s policies (such as using a work computer for personal use during work hours). However, an employer cannot make a policy that restricts protected employee speech. For instance, employees have a right to discuss working conditions and are protected under labor and employment laws. Of course, if an employee’s statements are too disloyal or disparaging, they would lose that protection. Be cautious about what you post online regarding work.
Any posts about ongoing litigation or settlements should also be avoided. In one employment discrimination case, a man was awarded $80,000 but lost it because of his daughter’s Facebook post. He had signed a confidentiality clause restricting him from discussing the settlement with anyone other than his attorneys. He told his daughter, however, who posted something about it on Facebook. The Third District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida held that this breach of the confidentiality clause meant that the employer did not have to pay the damage award. If you post something against a confidentiality clause, you could lose everything the settlement proposed to give you.
There is also a multitude of defamation and slander lawsuits stemming from someone’s social media post. In summary, be very cautious about what you post online. Ask yourself whether you would want your statement to be viewed by a judge in a family law matter, an unemployment lawsuit, or even possibly in a criminal case.
Attorney At Law