Before you click “Post,” ask yourself: Is there any reason I shouldn’t publish this content? In the age of social media, we have grown accustomed to Tweeting, IM’ing, and Snapping every thought of our day, but sometimes those fleeting messages have much greater impacts in the future than they do during the twenty-four hours you meant to feature them on your page.
One of the more significant ways your social media posts can affect your future is by being used as evidence against you in a civil or criminal case. Yes, social media posts can be used in both North Carolina civil court cases and in criminal court cases. But just what does it mean that social media posts are admissible as evidence?
The North Carolina Court of Appeals specifically held in State v. Ford that screenshots of a Myspace page depicting incriminating images, content, and captions were sufficiently authenticated under the low bar for admissibility of evidence under Rule 901(b)(4). Rule 901 only requires that evidence be what it purports to be and that it is identified or authenticated as such through testimony of a witness with knowledge, voice identification, or public records or reports, just to name a few. In State v. Clemons, our Court of Appeals concluded that in regards to screenshots of social media posts, evidence would need to be authenticated as both photos and statements.
This means that, should one of your own social media posts ever be used against you in court, it would need to pass admissibility standards as both a photo and a statement. Though this provides an additional hoop to jump through before using social media posts to your detriment, you would still be wise to think twice before sharing something to social media.
Even the most harmless post sharing good news on Facebook can be construed negatively in certain situations. For example, if you are going to court against a former spouse for child custody arrangements, a social media announcement about a promotion or luxurious vacation may indicate to a court that you are able to pay more in child support than you hope to. Under more extreme circumstances, a picture on your Instagram may place you at the scene of a crime! In short, you never know just how social media could implicate you or prove to be at the very least unflattering in the future, so keep in mind that social media posts are admissible in court the next time you press send.