The Role of Social Media in the Courtroom

There’s not much else to say on this issue that I didn’t say in the interview…

The key is that for now, social media have no place in the courtroom unless they are directly related to the case, like the guy who posted pictures of him wearing the stuff he stole on Facebook. Then it matters. But factoring in public opinion as measured by social media likes or follows is totally inappropriate for any legal determination because its meaning is far too ambiguous.  There’s no context behind a Like, which is the intent.  Facebook wants to keep Likes positive and encouraging, which is one reason why the company has been so adverse averse to including a “dislike” button.  But another reason why they are poor measures of approval is that they are a far cry from a scientific poll.  There’s no randomization.  The sample size is only whoever affirmatively clicks like, which does not count all the people who have chosen not to Like the page.  And the Like doesn’t specify what, specifically, the person is approving of.  The same thing goes with Twitter follows, +1’s, or pageviews.  There’s not enough data to draw a conclusion that would justify a legal finding of fact, which is the primary objective the court is supposed to accomplish.  And who’s to say that the Likes or pageviews cannot be manipulated by a Romanian botnet or Chinese hack attack?  We, in the United States, have designed our legal system to eschew mob justice.  That didn’t work for the French Revolution and it won’t work any better just because we now spend every waking moment on social media.

About Justin Kwong

An attorney in the Twin Cities and adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law where I teach a seminar on the law of virtual worlds.
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