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Can Social Media Get You In Trouble With The Law?

Are social media users aware their posts can have legal ramifications?

Image by Salvatore Vuono, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can your social media posts be used against you in a court of law? According to a new survey from Lawyers.com, less than 50% of social media users believe their activity on social platforms can have legal ramifications.

“Social media activity can absolutely be subpoenaed” says Larry Bodine, Esq., editor-in-chief of Lawyers.com, in a blog post announcing the research.

The survey examined several different social platforms, asking users if they were aware that social media posts could be used as legal evidence:

  • less than half (46%) of Facebook users realize their posts can be used as legal evidence
  • this number drops to 44% for YouTube users, 38% of Twitter users, 32% of Instagram users, and only 25% of Vine users who are aware that social media posts can be used against them in a court of law

Not surprisingly, younger social media users were more likely to be aware that social media activity could be used as legal evidence (against them) in a court of law; users under 24 were twice as likely to be aware as those 55 or older. Users with higher incomes and higher levels of education were also more aware of the potential legal ramifications of their social media posts.

“Our society’s inclination to tweet, post and share everything about our personal lives can be fun – but it can also lead to legal trouble,” says Larry Bodine. “Our survey shows that most people are unaware that their online ‘digital trail’ can and will be used against them in legal situations, despite privacy settings or deleted posts.”

A final word of advice from Lawyers.com: “don’t post or tweet anything you can’t explain to a judge.”

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

    I often equate this lack of awareness from the younger generation with the level of socializing they do offline. When I was younger, we actually had to get out of the house and make friends the good old-fashioned way. The way people looked at us influenced our behaviors and reactions.

    With a computer screen, it’s hard to see the ramifications of what a bad word can trigger.

    Great article, thank you!

    • http://therealtimereport.com/ Tonia Ries

      Great point, @cendrinemedia:disqus. Social manners are learned through real-life interactions — another reason parents should be very involved in deciding when their children are ready to take their social lives online.

    • http://markfrisk.com/ Mark Frisk

      I don’t understand this comment. The post plainly states that younger users are MORE aware of the legal ramifications of social media. It is certainly true that younger people, having come of age in the Internet/social media era, behave and interact with others differently, and could thus be more likely to find themselves in legal hot water. But that’s not what this post is about.

      “Not surprisingly, younger social media users were more likely to be aware that social media activity could be used as legal evidence (against them) in a court of law; users under 24 were twice as likely to be aware as those 55 or older.”

      • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

        Hello Mark,

        You are absolutely right. I read the article three times, and for some reason, I saw “unaware” instead of “aware” every time!

        Your comment made me go back to the page and read more slowly. My conclusion is: I need to change glasses. ;-)

        Thank you for correcting me.

        • http://markfrisk.com/ Mark Frisk

          No worries, Cendrine. Happens to the best of us!

          • http://therealtimereport.com/ Tonia Ries

            How funny – I read Cendrine’s original comment more as a general statement about the too-common lack of social skills among young people, vs. a direct reaction to the statistics in the article itself. Guess I was reading too fast, too!

          • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

            I usually complain about that publicly yes. lol

            In this case, as Mark mentioned, it wasn’t relevant to the article.

            That says something about fast readers. lol

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