While many people are under the impression that their social media feeds are private, simply based on their own privacy settings, that simply is not the case.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have grown in popularity exponentially since their entrance into the mainstream. Social media after all is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family that are scattered across the globe, but social media has its pitfalls. Social media feeds of individuals are now being used in litigation, especially divorces. Even dating website profiles are considered fair game in divorce proceedings.
How Social Media Streams are Fueling Divorce Litigation
A 2013 study found that about 35% of all divorce proceedings cite Facebook in some way. The study's findings came on the heels of experts suggesting divorces will climb as the economy improves. In many proceedings, Facebook messages and emails are used to prove infidelity. Social media feeds have also been used in child custody litigation.
In one famous case, a wife argued she had become disabled during the marriage and thus required lifetime support. Her social media feeds were used as evidence that she was in fact living an active lifestyle free from disabilities. The support request was denied based on this evidence.
Social media can also be used as evidence of a person's state of mind, evidence of certain communication, evidence of time and place, and evidence of actions. In California, social media evidence has been a key component in 700 litigated cases in the last two years. Social media feeds are often used to prove that a husband is not broke when the wife submits Facebook pictures of the husband vacationing or buying a new car.
Social Media and Litigation: Privacy Is Not Private
Even with enhanced privacy settings, social media feeds are not private. Previous court cases have set the precedent that Facebook and other social media feeds do not offer "reasonable expectations of privacy". Divorcing parties can also be ordered to hand over social media passwords to the court if there is a belief that electronic discovery could yield evidence in bitter divorce cases.
What is your take on social media's place in litigation?