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Can your social media posts be used against you?

Did you know that if you are involved in a legal case, now or in the future, what you say on social media could be used against you?

If the information is posted somewhere on the Internet, it could be used against you. A person may not realize that a post may be used against them at the time they are putting it up but posts can be used against a person at a later time. Especially if the post can prove a person committed a crime or is being untruthful in court.

Why are my social media posts can be used against me?

Most social media accounts are public, meaning they can be viewed by anyone. Anyone includes law enforcement, lawyers and the court.

Many cases today use Facebook evidence, especially when it comes to personal injury cases.

The 2007 case Kourtesis v. Joris shows how insurance companies may use a person’s Facebook account against them. It’s also one of the first personal injury cases in Ontario to use Facebook evidence against an insurance claimant.

In the case, a woman claimed that after her accident, her injuries were serious enough to ruin her life and she sued the insurance company for pain and suffering.

However, the insurance lawyers got access to her Facebook pictures.  She had put her privacy settings to “friends of friends”; the insurance lawyers then got a court order to access more of her Facebook pictures. The pictures contradicted her claim and she lost the case.

The use of social media accounts against people is not limited to personal injury cases alone. They can be used in many other legal areas such as criminal law and family law.

For example, in Tran v. Tran (2015), the judge ordered a trial on the issue of child support after the mother used Instagram and Facebook posts to support her claim that the father, who pleaded that he was unemployed, was working and had bought a new sports car rather than pay support.

If I set my accounts to private am I protected?

It may give you some protection from law enforcement, lawyers or the courts.

While it may initially make it difficult for them to get your information, it’s relatively easy for Canadian law enforcement to obtain evidence from social media sites even where the settings were changed to private.

All they have to do is get a court order or a subpoena and they can get access to your content, information and history from your social media accounts. However, the court may not issue a court order in every case, as they also must take into consideration privacy rights of people involved, as well as the relevance of the evidence to the case.

In Canada, law enforcement officials have another way to get your information, as the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act permits Canadian companies to voluntarily provide some information on without the authorities having obtained warrants first, although companies can refuse.

Many people are now deleting their old social media posts for fear that posts they made long ago can be found and used against them (though some people see the deletion as suspicious too). However, if your old posts are or may become part of a legal action, you cannot and must not delete them.

It’s best to consult with a lawyer if you are involved in a court case or lawsuit and are worried about your social media accounts being used against you as evidence.

Read more:

Using Social Media in Court Against You

Kourtesis v. Joris

Deleting Embarrassing Social Media Posts