Facebook Evidence: Courts Can Now Force You To Turn Over All Postings

Facebook just got even less private than it already was.

A recent expose from Slate writer Amanda Hess looked at several cases of civil and criminal litigation, in which an individual’s social media updates were subjected to court review.

One of the most outrageous — a sexual assault victim, who was suing her school district for having been the victim of a teacher employed with the district, was painted as “too happy” for damages by the school’s attorneys.

The teacher was a multi-time offender, who received 15 months in jail for the crime, which initially occurred in 2006.

One of the victims, “Melissa,” then brought a lawsuit against him, the school district, and school officials, Hess states, claiming “repeated sexual injury and assault,” “nightmares and sleep deprivation,” “emotional distress,” “alienation of affections,” and “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Considering there was a conviction, it appeared that Melissa had a good case. But then the defense started digging.

At first, Hess writes, they only had access to what Melissa had made public on Facebook. Just what did they find that was so incriminating?

“Melissa hanging out with her boyfriend, Melissa working at a veterinary hospital, Melissa rock climbing, Melissa out drinking with friends,” Hess says, adding that they also found “a second Facebook page, a joint account run by Melissa and her boyfriend.”

All this added up to the idea, in the defense’s mind, that she wasn’t as bad off as she said.

Now Melissa has been forced to hand over everything — posts, videos, status updates, photographs. If it’s on there, it’s admissible.

Of course, the flawed logic in this coercion of evidence is that Facebook is an accurate representation of life. Most people post only the good stuff on their Facebook page because they want friends and acquaintances to know they’re doing fine, or they want to overcompensate for something lacking in their lives.

A study reported by Digital Trends going all the way back to 2010 confirms as much.

According to the 2,000-person survey, conducted by Optimum Research for Direct Line insurance, just one in five people said they were more honest when using Twitter and Facebook.

So essentially, Melissa in the example above, could become a victim of the life that she portrayed to the world rather than the one she’s been living.

What do you think, readers? Should there be limitations to what is admissible from Facebook and other social networks? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock.com]