July 13, 2011 Articles

Effectively Accessing Social Media Websites for Use at Trial

It is inevitable that an important player in your lawsuit will have potentially relevant and thus discoverable information located online.

By Travis B. Swearingen

In 1999, Judge Samuel B. Cant of the Southern District of Texas, in his decision in St. Clair v. Johnny’s Oyster & Shrimp Inc., 76 F.Supp.2d 773, 775 (S.D. Tex. 1999), cautioned against relying on information from the Internet, which he characterized “as one large catalyst for rumor, innuendo, and misinformation” and “voodoo information” that is “adequate for almost nothing.” Ten years later, disciplinary authorities are grappling with the question of how to deal with judges who become Facebook “friends” with attorneys who appear before them. According to Nielsen’s published stats, the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. This equates to one in every four and a half minutes or 22 percent of all time spent online total. Social Networks/Blogs Now Account for One in Every Four and a Half Minutes Online, NielsenWire, June 15, 2010. As of July 21, 2010, Facebook boasted over 500 million active users, at least 50 percent of which log in on any given day. As of April 2010, Twitter had 105 million registered users with 300,000 new users joining every day. Bianca Bosker, Twitter User Statistics Revealed, The Huffington Post, Apr. 30, 2010. MySpace has 123 million unique users. Peter Chubb, Facebook Dethrones MySpace: New 2010 Statistics, Product Reviews News, Nov. 21, 2010. The average Facebook user adds 90 pieces of “content” every month, be it a status update, photograph, or blog post. Some estimates place the number of Internet blogs at over 150 million. NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey Company (last visited Jan. 6, 2011). And it’s not just computer savvy kids either; the fastest growing demographic for social networking websites is individuals over the age of 35. Peter Corbett, Facebook Demographics and Statistics Report 2010—145% Growth in 1 Year, iStrategyLabs, Jan. 4, 2010.

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