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Social media and your legal case

4 minute read

Social media and your legal case

Can social media impact my case?

It’s no secret that social media has had a societal impact, for better or worse. With so many people liking, sharing and commenting, it’s of little surprise that social media has become intertwined across most, if not all, elements of modern society. According to market research firm, Mintel, there is a widespread use of social media in Northern Ireland.

Amongst the population of Northern Ireland;

  • 78% use Facebook
  • 38% use Instagram
  • 26% use Twitter
  • 26% use Snapchat
  • 9% use Linkedin

One area where the effects of social media can be felt is the legal sector. It’s no longer uncommon for a social media post to impact how a case unfolds and this is something we should all bear in mind. We have seen the ramifications of social media use across many areas of law and have compiled some tips on how to conduct yourself digitally whilst you have an ongoing legal matter.

Privacy settings

It is advisable to make use of the increasingly robust privacy settings available across the various social media platforms. Do not accept friend or follow requests from strangers. A common tactic used in litigation and criminal matters is to examine the plaintiff or defendant’s social media accounts. An insurer, solicitor, police officer or even a private investigator might scour a social media account in the hope of finding evidence, or something that could be perceived as evidence, that undermines your case. This could have far-reaching consequences ranging from impacting the level of compensation awarded in a personal injury claim to harming the defence of someone accused of a crime.

Do not discuss your case online

You should avoid mentioning your case online. Don’t post photographs, video or audio content and do not publish any written word that pertains to your case. You might inadvertently communicate something that harms your case, particularly if it’s in the heat of the moment. On balance, there is rarely anything to gain from discussing your ongoing legal matters online and every post introduces the further risk of communicating something you shouldn’t have. If you feel as if you must discuss the matter online, only do so having received advice from the solicitor acting on your behalf.

The Communications Act 2003

The Communications Act 2003 criminalises online communication that is deemed grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing or that was sent with the intent of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety. It is not uncommon for people to commit an offence under the Communications Act without even knowing it. Critics of the Act say that it is vague and incompatible with freedom of expression. Consequently, the Law Commission published a report recommending reform of the Communications Act. Before publishing anything online, you should reflect on it and satisfy yourself that it does not constitute a criminal offence.  

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