The Pros and Cons of Oversharing on Social Media

Social media is a great avenue to express yourself through stories and photos. It’s a great way to connect with colleagues and publicize information about good news or ask for support. However, some users and most social media platforms provide the option to “privatize” yourself from certain groups or people in your life. Whenever someone gets is in the middle of a criminal defense case, what role does social media play? Can the information you write online be used against you in a court of law? What role should you take in publicizing or privatizing?

Every year, millions of users share numerous links, photos and articles with the world through popular social media platforms like  Facebook and Instagram. As one would expect, that information can be used against them in a court of law. The evidence may be as simple as a conversation or as complex as a multitude of images and videos of the actual crimes taking place. It is simple for authorities to come across such evidence, and can command the platforms to hand over whatever evidence they have. However, if you are a criminal defendant, it’s a different story.

According to the article on Cal Lawyer, a California lawyer resource website, a defendant looking for information that is saved on social media sites faces a lot of obstacles. The Stored Communications Act has rules for companies like Facebook that keep them from providing the user’s information to others without the owner’s permission. Challenges to this have been brought to California federal courts. Facebook argued that it was unconstitutional and that they were denied the right to confront the witnesses that are being used to corroborate the case. They believed that the stored communications act does not give the defendants access to important information that could help their case. Unfortunately, they did not win their battle in appeals court, which denied the defendants’ argument. Another court case, Number One v. Superior Court, may bring some light on the subject and give criminal defendants hope of obtaining social media information from third parties. Unless a criminal defendant succeeds with a challenge based on Juror Number One’s compelled consent rationale, the plain language of the SCA leaves criminal defendants’ pretrial ability to obtain critical exculpatory social media information in the sole discretion of the government.

It may be safe to privatize your account if you have charges against you or to delete content as soon as possible. It is important to be careful when it comes to what you post on social media. While we are sharing it with others, this information is not entirely publicized and questions the rights of what we put into the virtual world. In most cases, social media posts can frame or injure people by claiming these “drunk photos posted on social media” reflect the person’s declining behavior and reasons why they are irresponsible and guilty. It’s important to be sure you are not oversharing on social media, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

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