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7 Top Developments in Social Media and the Law

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Over the past dozen years or so, social media has certainly made its mark on the legal profession. Lawyers now connect with clients on Facebook, release legal podcasts, and some even have an Instagram account.

But social media's reach stretches well beyond legal marketing; social networks have changed the law itself, along with the way lawyers practice. Here's how.

Sure, you know about hashtags for lawyers. But what about social media's impact on antitrust litigation, now that banter on Twitter can raise antitrust concerns? Or bankruptcy proceedings, where hidden assets might be discovered through an Instagram account? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

2. Ninth Circuit Vastly Expands Reach of Federal Anti-Hacking Law

Could misuse of Facebook constitute hacking? Possibly, according to two recent rulings by the Ninth Circuit. In two cases decided this July, the appellate court interpreted the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act broadly to encompass password sharing and the unauthorized use of social media.

3. Another Lawsuit Against Facebook Over 'Material Support' of Terrorism

Websites are generally protected against liability for content posted by their users. But now that social media platforms have been adopted by terrorist groups as a means of recruiting and organizing, some victims are taking a different tack, suing social media companies for materially supporting terrorist activities.

When you get a negative review online, what are you to do? For one attorney in Massachusetts, the solution was to sue his reviewer for defamation, then to convince the court to award him ownership over the negative post's copyright, in order to force the review site to remove it.

Social media is becoming one of the main ways people learn about the world: an article posted on Facebook shapes your view of the presidential election, a tweet informs you of breaking news, and so on. But those social media platforms aren't always neutral. Facebook, for example, has come under fire after former contractors accused it of bias against conservative views.

6. Keep Your Facebook Drama Out of the Courtroom, Judges Warned

While social media has made it easier for legal professionals to connect to each other and potential clients, those connections (along with online comments) can backfire in the courtroom. Take, for example, the New Mexican judge who recently received a scolding for commenting on a trial on his Facebook page.

7. Tracking Jurors on Social Media -- New Boundaries Set by the ABA

A potential juror's Twitter account or LinkedIn profile can tell you a lot about how they might respond to a case. But that doesn't mean you should Facebook friend every person in the jury pool. Here's a quick guide to the appropriate boundaries, as explained in ABA Formal Opinion 466.

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest legal and social media developments? Connect with FindLaw via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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