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Aug 23, 2013

FYI: Social Media Can and Will Be Used Against You

Thanks to the ubiquity of cop shows on TV, we all know the prototypical Miranda warning (named after Miranda v. Arizona, which required the recitation): "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law."

Perhaps social media should contain the same warning. Because, according to a survey by lawyers.com (h/t to my colleague Eric Goldman), a majority of social media users in the U.S. do not know that their posts, tweets, check-ins, and other social media material can be used as evidence in court.

Less than half of the social media users in the survey knew that their postings could be used as legal evidence. Facebook users had the highest awareness of this, but still only 46 percent of Facebook users were aware of the possibility that their Facebook posts could be used in court. The rates among users of other social media sites were lower: 44 percent of YouTube users, 38 percent of Twitter users, 32 percent of Instagram users and 25 percent of Vine users.

These figures are consistent with a 2010 survey, in which 44 percent of social media users said that were concerned that personal information they posted online was being used against them. But 28 percent of the social media users in that survey said that they rarely think of the possible consequences of their posts.

(One caveat: I couldn't find details about the methodology of the recent survey, which may effect how to evaluate the survey results.)


The survey also found differences by age, with almost double the share of users under age 24 aware that their social media posts could be introduced in court, compared with social media users age 55 or older. There was also more awareness among higher-educated and higher-earning users than lower-educated, lower-earning users.

This blog -- and several others -- have been chronicling the legal issues involving social media, including the use of social media posts as evidence, for years. But it appears that many users are not getting the message: when it come to social media, "user beware."

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