Friday, August 30, 2013

Social Insecurity

This week, the Goodson Law Library added the new looseleaf Social Media and the Law (2013) to its collection. This Practising Law Institute treatise, edited by information technology lawyer Kathryn L. Ossian, can also be accessed electronically with current Duke University NetID via PLI Discover Plus (campus-wide trial until February 2014) and to current Law School students, faculty and staff on Bloomberg Law.

The Ossian treatise is part of a developing literature outlining how these emerging technologies have affected the legal system. Information from social networks like Facebook and Twitter has created new opportunities (and challenges) for electronic discovery, as well as new ethical headaches for attorneys and judges. Jury instructions have been redrafted to specifically prohibit jurors from discussing pending cases on social networks on Twitter. Attorneys have faced discipline for deceptively "friending" potential witnesses on Facebook. Some recent criminal trials (including the Steubenville High School rape case, and many family law disputes) rely heavily on photographic and text evidence culled from social media sites. And in a recent case sure to have ripple effects on other technologies, a New Jersey appellate court held this week that "the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted" (see ABA Journal article). Certainly as these legal duties become more commonplace, they will likely be extended beyond text messages to include private messages on Facebook, or direct messages on Twitter.

To read more about these emerging issues in social media and the law, check out McGrady on Social Media (in the library & online in Lexis) and The Lawyer's Guide to Social Networking: Understanding Social Media's Impact on Law, in addition to the new Ossian treatise. To locate ethics opinions related to social media and the law, consult our research guide to Legal Ethics for search strategies. As always, be sure to Ask a Librarian for assistance with your research.