The Ethics of Social Media Research

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use enjoy writing at other publications, as well, and this week is no different. Our editor, Jim Dedman, has penned a piece called “The Ethics of Social Media Research,” which was recently published in the January 2016 edition of The Inside Scoop, the newsletter of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel section. Here’s the first paragraph for you:

Lawyers now find themselves well into the era of social media discovery. Time was, Internet evidence was a novelty, and courts eyed such issues with wonder and skepticism. Cf. St. Clair v. Johnny’s Oyster & Shrimp, Inc., 76 F. Supp. 2d 773, 774 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (“[A]ny evidence procured off the Internet is adequate for almost nothing . . . .”). These days, these inquiries are routine. Accordingly, corporate counsel should be aware of the ethical principles governing social media research in litigation (whether they be conducting such  research internally or relying on outside counsel to do so).

First and foremost, lawyers must familiarize themselves with legal technology issues. Generally, “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” See ABA Model Rule of Prof’l Conduct 1.1, cmt. In fact, North Carolina has applied this requirement to social media specifically, noting that “[c]ompetent representation includes knowledge of social media . . . .”  See NC 2014 Formal Ethics Opinion 5.

You can read the full article here.