Is Facebook a Diary or a Newspaper?

by Katy Sheehan on July 1, 2009

in Civil Rights, In The News, Resources

I just stumbled across this blog post about a recent decision by a Canadian court which ruled that a Court can order parties to disclose the contents on their Facebook profiles with respect to discovery requests, even if it is a private profile.  As usual, when it comes to the impact such a decision has on social media users, the first thing attorneys are told to do is advise/remind clients that their Social Media profiles are public or could be considered public.  So here it is for the thousandth time to the world at large: FACEBOOK and MYSPACE and TWITTER and DELICIOUS and DIGG and FRIENDSTER etc. could be open to discovery.

The example in this case was that a person claimed to have lost significant enjoyment of their life because of the other party’s negligence.  Included in their suffering was that the victim of negligence couldn’t play certain sports anymore.  The opposing party argued that there might be evidence on the person’s Facebook Profile that proved that his claim was bogus.

The point is that Courts have not yet decided what role Facebook, et. all really plays in our lives.  Is it a Diary or a Newspaper?  What does this mean to regular people?  For myself I think of my  Social Media profiles the same way I think about having a conversation with a friend in a crowded restaurant.  Most of the time people aren’t paying attention and you can say what you need to say.  However, you have to be prepared for the inevitable collective lull in the room that usually happens right when you say something incriminating and out of context, “…when he was finally dead I called my boyfriend and told him, ‘You have some clean-up to do…’”  Talking about a dead mouse can all of a suddenly cause you big problems.

So what do we take away from this case?  Eventually we will have some clearer rules about what our social media profiles are but until then tread carefully and don’t expect unlimited privacy.

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