So, it’s 2015, so we’re not sure that a court needs to dedicate a section of an opinion to “Explanation of Facebook Technology Relevant to this Case.”
In February, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire did just that in an appeal arising from the defendant’s convictions for stalking and witness tampering.
In its opinion, the court noted as follows:
Facebook is a widely-used social media website, available for free to anyone with an e-mail account, whose stated mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Facebook and other social media sites are becoming the dominant mode of communicating directly with others, exceeding e-mail usage in 2009. With over one billion active users, Facebook is revolutionizing the way people behave and interact with one another in their everyday lives through site functions that facilitate sharing information, such as a user’s “profile page,” the ability to send personal messages to other users, and by allowing users to become “Facebook friends” with other users.
A profile page is a webpage that is intended to convey information about the user. By default, Facebook profile pages are public. When a user shares something publicly, anyone including people off of Facebook can see it. Alternatively, Facebook users can restrict access to their Facebook content using Facebook’s customizable privacy settings. Access can be limited to the user’s Facebook friends, to particular groups or individuals, or to just the user.
State v. Craig, No. 2013-229 (N.H. Feb. 12, 2015) (quotations and citations omitted).
We’ve deleted the citations, but we note that the court cited to law review articles and quoted from Facebooks pages directly.
But are these basic principles really so novel that they need to be stated and then supported with citations? If the authority the court is citing indicates that Facebook has one billion active users and that social media usage has surpassed email as a communications medium, isn’t it a familiar enough phenomena in society to go without saying? Can’t the court simply jump to the discussion of the relevant Facebook usage facts without pausing to remind us how it works? Do the terms profile page and Facebook friends really need to be in quotation marks at this point?