Can Social Media be Used in Court?
How social media could have an impact on your court case.
The Negative Impact of Social MediaIn a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, it was reported that 70% of employers will review a candidate’s social media presence before hiring. This number is exponentially rising with the adoption of social media as a standard, everyday practice in modern life. As a result, it has become habitual for applicants to “clean up” their social media accounts and remove anything that might give a possible employer pause when looking to hire them. But what happens when you’ve had a run in with the law? Can your social media posts and comments be used against you? The answer is yes, and in rapper Tekahsi6ix9ine’s case, this is becoming a harsh reality to swallow.
Prosecutors Using Social MediaTekashi6ix9ine, also referred to as Tekashi69 or 6ix9ine, is an up-and-coming rapper who has quickly risen to prominence in the past year through his heavy, continued use of social media, specifically Instagram, to promote his music and lifestyle. Despite his growing popularity, he has been plagued with legal troubles stemming back to 2015 and his involvement in a child sex case. His most recent arrest in November 2018 leaves him facing a possible life prison sentence due to his alleged involvement with a violent gang that has been frequently labeled as a criminal enterprise. Tekashi69 has denied his involvement; however, his social media images and videos paint a very different picture.
Despite trying to publicly distance himself from the gang, Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, in a recent interview on the popular radio show The Breakfast Club, as well as firing a majority of his team, Tekashi69 has constantly alluded to his involvement in gang-related activity. in his music as well as in his frequent use of Instagram through hand signs, the color red (a common symbol for the gang, the Bloods) and “beefs.” These posts are now being used by authorities as evidence of Tekashi’s gang activity, despite his lawyer insisting that he is an entertainer and not a gang member.
Instagram Live Goes WrongThis isn’t the first court case involving where social media posts are used against a defendant; in early 2018 in Pompano Beach, Florida, another up-and-coming rapper, Kodak Black, was arrested based off of a Instagram live post where the rapper was seen using marijuana and possessing a firearm, all in the presence child. Some viewers alerted authorities to the live post and Kodak Black (along with the other adults in the video) was arrested shortly after the live post was made. Kodak Black was arrested solely because of what he himself put out onto social media. While it can safely be assumed that he likely did not intend for his use of social media to be used against him in a court of law, he has sadly become another prime example of how today’s use of social media is quickly coming back to haunt those utilizing these platforms.
Not Just Celebrities Get Arrested for Social MediaWhile both instances involve public figures, it is easy to believe that authorities are only utilizing social media in high profile cases and this is not occurring in small communities. That assumption is inaccurate. As recently as this week, authorities in Wakulla County are investigating a middle school student from River Springs Middle School after the student allegedly made threatening posts towards the school on a social media platform. He has since been suspended pending the investigation. This is in accordance with a new Florida law that was passed in July 2018 that makes it a second-degree felony for anyone that threatens a school via a social media post or comment. This law was passed due to the increasing number of alarming social media posts discovered by authorities following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.
With the frequent use of social media, it is crucial to remind ourselves, and our children, that whatever we choose to put on the internet is hard to erase and will likely be there forever. While we may perceive a post or comment to be made in a joking fashion, it may not be considered laughable to everyone and can actually lead to some serious consequences. If you or a loved one have recently been arrested due to social media posts or believe that your social media presence will be used against you in court, it is imperative that you contact a knowledgeable social media defense attorney that will aid in your case.