Monday, October 15, 2007

Facebook and MySpace: Evidence in Court

In addition to our previous post exploring legal implications of activities that take place on social networking sites, we now learn that certain practitioners in the legal profession have begun to collect information about opposing parties via sites such as Facebook and MySpace in support of their clients’ legal claims.

The National Law Journal reports:

At Malbrough & Lirette in Houma, La., a secretary browses MySpace and Facebook Web sites each day. She's not checking the online social networking sites for personal reasons, but is performing one of her job duties.

"It's an everyday occasion," said Joan Malbrough, a partner at the three-attorney firm, which handles family law, personal injury and corporate law matters.

"Every new client we do a MySpace and Facebook search on to see if they or their spouse have any useful information."

In one case, Malbrough said she helped secure shared custody for the father after finding his wife had posted sexually explicit comments on her boyfriend's MySpace page. In another case, a husband's credibility was questioned because, on his MySpace page, he said he was single and looking.

Lawyers in civil and criminal cases are increasingly finding that social networking sites can contain treasure chests of information for their cases. Armed with printouts from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, attorneys have used pictures, comments and connections from these sites as powerful evidence in the courtroom.

The article also provides examples of victims identifying suspects in groups of photographs from MySpace and judges determining appropriate sentences for crimes based on past related activities posted on social networking sites.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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Joe Fresh said...

People need to realize that their social networking information is often open to the public. If you post personal and possibly damning information on a public website, it's no different than painting it on the front of your house.

Benjamin Wright said...

Garry: People can use voice signatures to help preserve electronic records (such as snapshots of web or social networking pages) as potential evidence for legal proceedings. --Ben

Anonymous said...

Wow this is incredible, especially in light of the fact you can create an email account in someone else's name and then open a myspace account. How could a person be responsible for that if THEY aren't the one's these fake myspace pages belong to???

Benjamin Wright said...

Social networking is becoming so entangled with our lives that that business people are starting to use it to transact business. A business manager used Facebook to inform an employee that she is fired. --Ben