Social Media Issues for the Pro Se (aka Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Etc Are Not Necessarily Your Friend)

social media imagesAnytime you are in a lawsuit, whether as a Pro Se or Pro Per litigant (representing yourself in court) or an attorney or a party, you must assume two things:

1) Your opponent is smarter than you; and 

2) They can find anything that hurts your case or helps theirs no matter where it is.

Which brings me to the issue of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or the zillions of other websites people go to share.

When I was an active trial lawyer social media wasn't as big of a deal as it is today. However, the internet was already proving to be a prime hunting ground for a savvy lawyer. Just as an example, anytime I got involved with a case against a person or entity who had a website, the first thing I would do, often before I even filed a lawsuit, was to go to their website and download it as a file. On more than one occasion I found that after the lawsuit began and the opponent realized the situation, subtle changes would be made to their websites. On more than one occasion, information that was harmful to their case would be scrubbed but to no avail since I already had the original website in its entirety.

The same goes with social media. Once you put something on the internet, even if it is just for a few minutes, it is in reality there forever. Using what I can only assume is some kind of magic, Google now instantly searches a website and pulls it into their system anytime something is changed or added. Even so, the old stuff is still out there if you know where to look.

What this means is if you are serious about your case, and you shouldn't be involved in one if you are not serious, don't put anything on the internet! Keep your private stuff to yourself!

If you are in a dispute with someone do not blog about it, share it on Facebook, tweet about it, etc. Once you put it out there, someone can find it. If you aren't sure whether or not it is safe to put something on the internet, err on the side of caution and don't put it there!

There are some ways in which the internet can help a case. Finding witnesses or for that matter any person or company, doing research, looking for forms, etc. but if you aren't willing to say something in front of a judge, jury, your opponent, your clergyman, your spouse, your mother, etc. then don't put it on the internet! 

It would be a shame for you to do good work, prepare your case, research all of the issues, and then lose because you got mad and posted something stupid on Facebook.

Once it is on the internet it is there forever.

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