The social media companies wield tremendous influence in public conversation. Only a few of them understand how to handle that power. Twitter can ban users from spamming their followers. And, to this point, the government has not stepped in to interfere with their decisions. However, a lawsuit can help bring the issue to a halt. Let's look at some of the recent cases.
One of the biggest challenges to social media lawsuits is the ability to obtain access to private social network contents. While private social networking accounts are typically private, they may still be discoverable in court. In order to get access to such private accounts, plaintiffs must first establish that the content in the account is relevant to their claims or defenses. A recent case involving a personal injury plaintiff involved a defendant who was able to access the plaintiff's private Facebook account.
In this case, a plaintiff alleged that she was forced to stay confined to her bed after suffering work-related injuries. Although she had marked her posts as private, the court ruled that she was hiding behind privacy controls. As a result, the court granted the plaintiff's request. Further, the case is similar to others involving social media platforms.
Moreover, courts are increasingly relying on social media sites as evidence. A recent case in Chicago found that the defendants failed to properly disclose the information in their posts. In a similar case, a judge in the Cook County Circuit Court found that the tweet was vague and irrelevant. As such, it is imperative to be careful when posting online. Even harmless posts may be misused by opposing counsel or the court. Therefore, it is better to stay off social media sites altogether while defending yourself.
Similarly, businesses may face legal issues arising from the use of social media. Such issues include infringement of intellectual property, defamation of character, employment issues, and even privacy concerns. While there are no enforceable standards for privacy on social media, defense lawyers may seek to subpoena social media records during discovery. Such records include posts, videos, and private messages, as well as any apps linked to an account. New technology has improved the ability to scan social media networks and track targets across multiple platforms. Online sleuths have emerged to help in these cases.
Despite the fact that almost everyone uses social media, not all of us are aware that posting on these sites can get us into trouble. For example, a former sixth-grade student recently won a lawsuit against the Minnewaska School District over claims that the school pressured her to disclose her Facebook password. Lawsuit was settled out of court, but the case could have gone on for years. In the meantime, social media users should be extra careful with the kinds of comments they make online.