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Snapchat, Lies and Photoshop: Is Social Media A Threat to Our Judicial System?

[By Stephanie York, Hennes Communications]

Legal cases in the court of law take a long time to develop, file and litigate – years in many instances.

Cases often move at an agonizingly slow pace … through written discovery, motions, depositions and court appearances. The Court of Law is intentionally methodical, governed by strict rules, and overseen by a judge who acts as the gatekeeper of information (evidence).  This is the justice system we rely upon in the United States to determine the Truth, with a capital T.

And then there is the Court of Public Opinion. Increasingly driven by social media, opinions, determinations and decisions are formed in a flash and then reinforced through thousands of Facebook shares. Posts with “facts” based on no verified information, convincing pictures created through Photoshop and incendiary tweets now dominate the evidence in this court. Falsehoods go viral in seconds, forever altering people’s opinions – opinions often based on well and long-established truths – in an instant.

Mark Cohen, in a piece written for Forbes, offers that “Social media has the potential to undermine the deliberate, at times cumbersome judicial process.”

Attorneys and judges involved in that process face challenges unimagined just a few years ago, particularly with juries forming opinions about defendants and arguments that may be based on Snapchat, lies and Photoshop.

Cohen’s piece is worth consideration as we wrestle with this still-new phenomenon. And he offers this provocative prescription: “Social media must have rules and standards designed to delineate fact from fiction. Lawyers must play a key role in this process.”

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