Here’s more what not-to-do’s on Facebook to carry you into the weekend…
Following up on my recent posts regarding negative comments made about the boss on Facebook, here’s the 2009 Facebook Wall of Shame (i.e., biggest Facebook fails of the year):
1. Most recent Wall of Shame entrant – Facebook Poker In the Pokey – October 13, 2009 – Tennessee woman was arrested this week for “poking” a female friend on Facebook. This is for real, and is no laughing matter because, apparently, the “pokee” had a restraining order against the “poker.” who now faces a fine or incarceration.
While cases of the police using social networking sites for law enforcement is becoming increasingly common, the London Telegraph reported that this case is believed to be one of the first cases where someone was arrested for using Facebook to say hello or to flirt. Full text of the story can be read here.
2. In a busy week for Facebook fails, fugitive bank con artist, and apparent show off, Maxi Sopo, was busted after making the officer investigating his case a Facebook friend. Relying on the erroneous belief that he was safe so long as the profile was marked private, Sopo featured himself posed alongside fancy cars and other bits of his ill-gotten gain, bragging about “life on the lam.” Federal agent Seth Reeg manged to become Sopo’s Facebook friend where he combed through the site, saw the expose, and brought Sopo to justice. Full text of this story is here.
For the wordsmiths among you, Wikipedia states that that the word “lam” derives from an Icelandic term meaning to “thrash” or “beat soundly.” Sopo ought to give himself a sound beating for this screw up. He could face up to 30 years in jail.
3. Last, but not least in the Wall of Shame (thus far, the year’s not over yet) – Who could forget that fountain of intellect, Jonathan G. Parker, who – while burgling a residence – decided to stop and check his Facebook account. As if that weren’t bad enough, the lad (19 years old) left the Facebook window open on the victim’s computer. This story could only be better if he had called the police, identified himself, and told them exactly when and where to nab him.
The year isn’t over, folks…
I am sure there is more Facebook fails from the general population yet to come before we bid farewell to 2009. Just in case there are some of you lawyerly types out there chuckling and muttering under your breath that a lawyer wouldn’t be so stupid, don’t be so quick to forget about the attorney who coerced his paralegal into committing jury tampering.
Social networking is here to stay…and it’s a useful and even lucrative tool when it is used correctly.
Each of these stories, however, shares a common element: each involved inappropriate activity using a social networking platform. The activities were inappropriate either because they violated a rule of law or court order, or they were inappropriate due to the time, place and manner in which the platform was used. Unfortunately, lawyers seem to be getting ensnared in this net with greater frequency, so it is worth repeating that what you share on social networks with your “friends” may not be appropriate content for an attorney to post, it may get you disciplined or disbarred, or it may be just plain dumb and bad for business.
I use Facebook in a couple of ways. Primarily, I use Facebook to stay connected with people I already know. With few exceptions, I don’t sign anyone up who wants to be connected to me as a “friend.” With the people whom I know, I use the Facebook platform to socialize about many different topics and display some of the things that I am interested in that are not law-related.
Secondarily, I use Facebook to advertise my blog links, website, projects that I am working on, causes that I support, and the like. Because it offers some many applications, I think Facebook works well as a one-stop landing pad for your online “brand.” This is especially true if you are 100% virtual. Facebook can help provide your clients with a complete picture of who you are, both as a person as well as an attorney. In today’s world where collaboration and sharing are the norm, providing such a complete picture is an important aspect of your marketing. Social networks like Facebook and others help create a complete brand identity in a way that expensive print advertising never could.
What I don’t do – with Facebook or any other social networking device – is rant and rave. It’s easy to say that one wouldn’t ever tamper with a witness or a juror on Facebook, but it is a slippery slope when it comes to making negative comments about judges. However, the following story illustrates how rants and raves about judges can lead to ruin.
None of this should turn you away from social networking, especially not from one of the pre-eminent sites like Facebook. However, you should always remember that, despite your best efforts to keep what you say private, nothing you socialize about on the Internet is really private. Therefore, you may want to adopt the position that the 5th District Court of Appeal did back in April when it ruled that spaces like MySpace, Facebook, etc. are “bulletin boards” and not private rooms.
And, a measured word to any judges who might be reading. If you are socializing on the Web, you are not immune from scrutiny either. With greater frequency, judges are using Facebook or other social networking platforms. Social networking by judges presents a number of potentially thornier problems, which I will explore in a later post.