The Power of Twitter (and other social networking fears)

After their narrow, and somewhat uninspiring, win yesterday, Robert Henson, a virtually unknown Redskin, had some choice words for the fickle Redskin fans who were booing their team on Sunday:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/09/robert_henson_apologizes.html?hpid=news-col-blog

In and of itself, this is not a surprising story, but it is a good object lesson on the “Power of Twitter” (and Facebook, friendfeed, myspace, etc.) For every Robert Henson, there is a college kid who gets rejected from law school because of the racy pictures he chose to post from spring break, or a high school senior who gets rejection letters by the bushel because she thought those pics she posted on myspace  of her getting high with her friends were hilarious.

Even worse are the police officers, firefighters, or other public servants that face suspension, public ridicule, or worse for the racist, sexist, or otherwise totally tasteless comments they chose to share with their facebook “friends”.

Facebook, twitter, and all of these social media outlets (including wordpress blogs such as this) are manna from Heaven for a diligent adversary.  In my practice, one of the first things I do is check out my clients, opposing parties, and their counsel on the internet.  I am finding with increasing regularity that the trails of digital breadcrumbs are becoming both easier to find, and, quite often, very rewarding to follow.  Particularly in the case of social media, such as twitter or facebook, one finds unvarnished statements and opinions that the same person would never write in a letter.  Such statements are written with all of the informality of the spoken word, but with all of the permanence of the written word, and all of the exposure of the broadcast word.

My rule of thumb (which I have certainly broken) is if I don’t want my mother or my stodgiest client to read it, then I shouldn’t post it.  Mom has a sense of humor (and can’t work a computer), but I always assume that clients, judges, and opposing counsel are always watching.  I might sound paranoid, but, as Robert Henson has now learned, being a little paranoid in this digital age isn’t such a bad thing!

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