Home > Business Disputes > Facebook-MySpace – I thought you were my friend!!

Facebook-MySpace – I thought you were my friend!!

As a trial attorney I am used to having to find things out about people who don’t want the information discovered. The “substitute teacher” according to her information in discovery and on the crash report is actually a “bisexual escort” according to her MySpace page. Which explains why she was where she was when the wreck happened and who she was talking to on the phone. I know most lawyers tell their clients not to post anything about their claim or litigation on their social networks, but you really need to go a step further and review the information yourself. It might be a good idea to have them log onto all their social media sites, Facebook, MySpace, etc. while they are in your office that first meeting. I have seen defendants claim not only were they not drinking at the time of the wreck but never drink, only to find photos of them with alcohol, passed out and comments about being drunk again, wrecking another car, etc.
I actually started this blog about a month ago, but it seems like every time I go to post it something new comes up that I need to write about, but this was too good to pass up. In Fort Bend County a young woman was convicted of DUI and during the punishment phase of her trial the District Attorney admitted her Facebook page into evidence which listed her hobbies as beer drinking and beer pong. FortBendNow.com has the complete story. I thought that was bad enough but on April 22nd the Houston Chronicle reported how a group of bank robbers were arrested in part due to their posting comments on Facebook about being rich, making money the clean and dirty way and other comments. How about the poacher who posted the photos of alligator he poached. He was arrested. The guy on probation who was not allowed to drink and posted on his website about the party he was planning and drinking. Yep, goodbye probation. (I thought I would have to make up crazy exaggerations to demonstrate what can happen when you post stupid things on Facebook, but luckily I have real idiots to take care of that for me!)
If you are thinking not my problem – I am not in a lawsuit-you might want to rethink that. Employers are searching social media sites prior to hiring employees or during the interview process they may ask you to log on to check the site. If you are in high school or college you can still be impacted by honor code violations, drinking or other violations of school or sports restrictions.
I am looking for the crazy stories or things that people have posted on social media either with the consequences or lucky enough to have avoided them. Let me know what you have seen heard. I know none of you (wink, nod) have done posted anything stupid so you can tell me about your “friend”. Finally to all my defense attorney friends who are reading this thinking “Oh no I think that is my client” it is and I already downloaded and printed the pages:>)

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  1. April 28, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Good post, Brent. I wish I’d thought of it first!

    Personally, I try to use a version of the old rule – “If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mom, don’t say it” for my online activities.

    When they (attempt to) teach us to write in law school, they say “consider your audience.” That is also a good rule for online writing. You audience may be your future employer or a jury of you peers.

  2. Rob
    April 28, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Brent, I passed this along to my family and staff. Great blog posting. I hope everyone pays heed to it.

  3. Jessie
    April 28, 2011 at 8:07 am

    All good points.

    One thing though, are employers allowed to ask you to log on to facebook to check you out? That seems more than a little invasive. I know many privacy settings are fairly easy to circumvent and nothing is truly “private” but that seems like quite a violation. Even if what you are doing is legal and in no way effecting your current or future employment, that doesn’t mean you want everyone anywhere to be able to see all of your business.

    I think some people forget how much of a monster social networking sites can be, clearly these candidates for Darwin Awards did. But also especially people my age, who got on Facebook when only college kids could, when there were no pictures, when it was used for only connecting with friends and never a thought was given to the privacy of your information.

    • carpentercarpenter
      April 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

      If you give them permission they can and if you are in an interview and need the job you really are not in a possession to refuse. Also they could just look you up, find your friends and go to each of their pages and see what comments, photos, etc. they have that may include you. Send to your friends and have them comment. I am interested in what they think about this issue.

  4. April 28, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Well said, Brent! Great article. Sometimes I see things posted that make me shake my head in disbelief. I know of a case where a 22 year old college student killed a 14 year old girl in a DWI crash and injured 2 other children and the mother. This repeat offender had posted on his Facebook and My Space that his hobbies were drinking and partying. Not only can this be used against him but it is so cruel to have this kind of thing posted for victims of drunk driving crashes!
    I also see people posting phone numbers, putting themselves and their families in danger. I am glad you wrote this article. Hopefully, someone will think twice before they divulge some of their personal info. Thanks!

  5. April 28, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I have also been a big fan of using Facebook and other social networks in our family cases, I get my client to print everything they can find on their spouses pages, it is amazing the stuff you find and can use in a custody battle. I once represented a young kid who was seeking custody of his baby, the mother, also very young, had stated she could not meet my client to get possession of the child one weekend because she had not car. However she posted on that Sunday, with pictures of how fun the concert was in Austin she went to over the weekend. She also stated she did not have a phone for my client to reach her, yet on her facebook she had a bunch of entries to her friends saying call me on my cell. The problem is that if they have already posted it and then take it off it may be too late, as it may have been printed. We tell our clients to watch for that the fact that you conversations may be recorded, so do not say anything that you would not want played in open court to the judge.

    Great post Brent.

  6. Casey Winans
    April 28, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Great article Brent. Ironically, I read it by Jess posting it on her facebook. I think the small generation that grew up with it in college in its fledgling stages are likely the most informed about how big of a monster it has become because we have seen the evolution of it. We knew immediately when the newsfeed came out that ‘stalking’ was all that much easier. Or when pictures came out, you could then see the crazy stuff your friends were up to this weekend. I would assume that our select ‘facebook generation’ would be most aware of the dangers of facebook because of this, but it is typically the well-versed in the proverbial game of life baby boomers that are warning us of the dangers of it (Maybe because they’re the ones doing the hiring?). And evidently the majority of the younger kids who didn’t grow up with facebook seem to care less about privacy. There’s where you will undoubtedly find an endless supply of crazy stories/shocking material made public. In my naivety, I think I am safe by setting my privacy setting to allowing only my friends to view my profile, see my personal info, etc. The catch is I have friends on it that I wouldn’t recognize if we were in the same bathroom.

    As a project in one of my classes in college we made a profile of a rather attractive blonde girl, made her come across as a friendly person, and friend requested half the class. Naturally more guys than girls accepted, but 2/3 of the class accepted the friend request within a week. We then compiled racy dirt on everyone that had accepted, and called victims out in class that had “been to this party” or “looks like they had a good time here.” This is were the threat of fraud comes to play and perhaps a means of someone accessing the inner details of your profile by bypassing all of your privacy settings. Typically, once you befriend someone, not even your strictest setting can prevent them from viewing your profile, unless of course you specifically block them. Don’t get me started on Twitter.

    • carpentercarpenter
      April 28, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Casey thanks for the information. I was going to throw twitter in there also, but I am not versed enough to effectively use it much less discuss it.

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