Most social networkers are aware of the perils of public posting. Photos and comments that might delight and amuse friends could turn potential employers stone cold, for starters. However, restricting access may not be sufficient if true privacy is the goal. If a judge determines that a social networking post could affect the fairness of a trial, privacy settings suddenly become irrelevant.
With an increasing number of individuals engaging in social networking, it is not surprising that Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have started to play a prominent role in litigation in the United States and Canada, at times affecting outcomes.
Increasingly, information contained in Facebook profiles has been used as evidence in litigation. There have been many cases similar to one that recently occurred in Newfoundland, Canada: A plaintiff filed a lawsuit after suffering whiplash as a result of two car accidents. In his statement of claim, the plaintiff stated that the injuries negatively impacted his social life. However, the defendant was able to rebut this claim by producing evidence from the plaintiff’s Facebook profile that demonstrated the plaintiff’s active social life.
In another personal injury case, the question before the court was whether the plaintiff’s injuries constituted a “permanent serious impairment of an important physical, mental or psychological function.”
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