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Social media and its impact on law

“Social sites are permanent chronicle of our private lives.”- Daniel Solovo

With the arrow of time, the internet has unwrapped new conduits of communication and self expression. The remarkable invention of social sites comes with the astonishing renovation of our world but with the teething troubles of gravest character. With the  magnitude of sheer participation in social networking,  the present era, shapes the society  by cultural tsunamic change. As laptops replaced typewriters;  pen and paper no longer drive the courts.  Nothing can avoid the social networking impact on legal professional as it permeates virtually every layer of our culture. The legal professionals navigating their way through digital maelstrom are facing numerous repercussions because of the ongoing debate in the e-world of social networking. Being a part of the society in which more and more people seem to be living their life online, its presence and influence continue to be felt across our system of justice, as well as in the profession itself. The result of the private information being online, of course is that lawyers have more data than ever before at their fingertips, data that can literally make or break a case. The social media is a phenomenon that has become virtually impossible to ignore.

Few areas of the law have been affected by the social networking revolution quite like the realm of the family law. Worldwide the newly discovered resource for connecting-and in many cases, reconnecting –with others has fuelled not only the development of new relationships, but also the disintegration of existing ones.

Any understanding of how the advent of social media has affected jurisdictional issues hinges on a grasp of jurisdictional requirements in general, as well as a sense of how notions of jurisdiction have been refined in recent years to account for the internet and how it has transformed the ways people now conducts business. Social sites  such as Facebook and myspace have hit society with the force of a juggernaut. Social networking sites have not only become new sources of evidence, both incriminating and exonerating, in criminal law- they have inadvertently inspired criminal acts.

 The need for the information outweighed the concerns over privacy. Privacy and relevance concerns are often the most significant points of contention in personal injury cases featuring social media evidence. A further consideration regarding discovery of social networking content is whether the requested disclosure might violate the privacy interests of third parties, such as the plaintiff’s Facebook “friends”. In many jurisdictions, courts have discretion to take such privacy interests into account when weighing whether to allow such discovery. As with so many other areas of law, social networking is affecting employment law, primarily because its effect is being in the workplace itself. The value of mining social networking sites is by no means limited to the applicant screening process, or to monitoring employee online activities.

One of the most rapidly expanding areas of the law affected by the advent of social media is defamation law. Social media and the internet demonstrate that what can be a positive force cannot only serve negative purpose, but can serve them with frightening speed and efficiency. In an era in which political opinion can be shaped by social media, and in which consumer loyalties can rise and fall based upon comments and self-published product ratings on social networking sites, individuals and companies alike can be disparaged at the speed of the search engine, reaching an audience of millions. While for some companies, filing a defamation suit over comments made via social networking site is an ill-fated decision, for others it is seen as a tactical necessity. In today’s world of search engine optimization strategies, a company with an established online identity may be able to “drive down” one unfavourable blog posting or entry with articles, company blogs, and other web content of its own. As a result, the negative impact of the single, arguably defamatory posting could be significantly lessened without risking the public relations backlash, cost, and uncertainty of a law suit.

The brave new world that is social media is still being explored by layers in all practice areas. One group that cannot afford to ignore social networking sites is the community of intellectual property attorneys, and the companies and individuals they represent. Sheer numbers alone demand that intellectual property specialists pay attention to social networking. It’s not just the intellectual property holders who need to keep up with social media. Those accused of violating intellectual property rights have also discovered the benefits of social media. Those accused of violating intellectual property rights have also discovered the benefits of social media. Intellectual property owners need to be acutely aware of the potential for a backlash when they come across as heavy-handed, especially given the speed with which negative publicity can go viral. But that doesn’t mean holder of intellectual property rights should keep their heads in the sand either. Intellectual property owners need to begin their monitoring efforts at home, by developing online activities for employees. Such policies should address limits on an employee’s discussion of or incorporation of a company’s activities and intellectual property on a social networking site or blog.  Issue of copyright protection in the age of social media served an another illustration of how the law has not kept the pace with technological innovation.

Social media may have provided companies with new opportunities for exchanging information, but it has also opened the door to new risks involving both formal and informal disclosure of potentially sensitive information. Social networking issues are cropping up in other aspects of securities law as well.

The spread of social media and the uncertainty over applying ethics rules adopted long before there was an internet or site like Facebook has led to more lawyers getting in hot water for their online conduct. Social media is a phenomenon that is transforming society and, as a result, the way we practice, and the legal system itself cannot help but be affected as well. While social networking can bring obvious benefits when it comes to marketing one’s practice and sharing practice tips with colleagues, it is what one makes of it. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, two things are undeniable: social media is here to stay, and it has already affected everything from the notion of legal duty to the creation of new crimes, causes of action, and defences.

About the Author

DSC00099 - CopySonal Gupta is pursuing her B.A. LLB from HariSingh Gour University. She is fond of reading and loves to write on various legal topics. She plans to serve her country through the eminent pillar of judiciary. She is currently pursuing her internship with Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.

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