June 13, 2012 Articles

Ethics of Using Social Media During Case Investigation and Discovery

A simple tweet or "poke" could turn the tide against you.

By Seth I. Muse

As social media become more and more important in the discovery process, so too do the ethical dilemmas attorneys face when tapping this evidentiary source. The Internet as we know it is not the same Internet we once knew. No longer a place to passively receive information, the Internet is now nearly dominated by its social-media component, which has exploded in usage. For example, in February 2012, Facebook reported that it had more than 845 million active users. Social media are turning traditional forms of communication into interactive dialogues generated by the public. The very nature of social media is creative, and this creativity is unearthing new ethical dilemmas for attorneys. With users more prone to “let their guard down” when generating social-media content, the legal relevance, applicability, and value of social media have been proven time and again. A poll administered in 2010, for example, found that 81 percent of matrimonial lawyers have used evidence from social networks.

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