The advent of social media, but also email, has led to a spate of cases concerning wider than intended distribution of these forms of communication and the use of evidence in litigation gained from sites such as Facebook, associated with electronic communication.
The issues can arise in all sorts of legal contexts – defamation, employment termination, divorce, discrimination and, of course, crime.
It seems to be human nature to quickly and sometimes (relatively) thoughtlessly respond to electronic communications. If the communication had been in hard copy the time and effort taken to respond might result in a more thoughtful or careful response. People seem to assume paper communication is “permanent” but not electronic communication, when in many situations the reverse may be true. People also seem to assume electronic communications can somehow be withdrawn or kept from a larger than intended grouping.
Employers sometimes look at what current or prospective employees are doing via their Facebook (or similar) sites, divorcing couples may seek “discovery” (a mandatory Court process providing “documents” to the other side) and information from Facebook sites, email and mobile phone accounts. Others may innocently (or maliciously) spread a “funny” message beyond its original intended recipients until the butt of the joke is in on it.
It is wise to be mindful of the potentially wide distribution of an electronic communication which, even if relatively innocent at the time, might be taken out of context, leading to unpleasant legal action or consequences within a legal action which later develops.
LIV Accredited Specialist – Business Law