Law In The Age Of Social Media: A Catch Up Game

By Rice Divorce Team | April 20, 2016

I’d be willing to bet a significant portion of my paycheck that a majority and perhaps all of the readers of this blog would admit that they had already checked several of their social media sites multiple times before doing so. In all likelihood, you have probably run across my musings on this and a few other matters on one of the many social media platforms that Larry Rice uses in great frequency. That is the degree to which social media has become assimilated into our daily lives. It is not just the Millennials or Generation Y that are the main proponents of these sites, but indeed many members of Generation X and even Baby Boomers have jumped headfirst into the new experiences that these online platforms have to offer. Which is why one would assume that such a widespread integration of social media into our daily lives would cause those within the legal profession to have adapted as best they could to the inevitable complications that such advancements have on the pre-existing laws that govern our society as we know it, right? You’d think that, but unfortunately, you’d be mistaken.

The two laws that govern the vast majority of social media in a legal sense are the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Communications Decency Act, both of which were enacted in 1996. In other words, these major acts were created and implemented in a world where AOL instant messaging was the closest equivalent to anything that can be accessed today. While these two acts have been retrofitted slightly to adjust to the changes over time, those changes have been at a snail’s pace compared to the wildfire spread of not only social media’s influence on society at large, but also its multiplicative nature as well. Not to mention these acts are simply not enough when it comes to addressing the landslide of issues regarding information security, privacy, defamation, employment, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, endorsements, and that’s not even covering the further complexities that arise when constitutional rights and civil procedures are factored into all of the aforementioned issues. The Rice divorce team deals with the trials and tribulations of dealing with social media platforms in representing clients on a daily basis. Having been directly involved in many of these interactions, it has become readily apparent that almost twenty-year-old regulations on since-abandoned forms of electronic communication are not enough to help courts of any level deal with the incursion of problems that have resulted from its presence in the everyday lives of every participant in a courtroom at any level. This is not to say that progress has not been made in some areas to mitigate the more common problems that have arisen over time involving social media’s use in legal settings, but that the lack of direction and willingness to provide it are hampering the legal system in an incredibly detrimental way.

This diatribe, however, should not be seen as an attack on social media itself. Even if I had the desire to do so such an argument would be in vain. There is no going back to a pre-social media society now, especially since after reading this many of you will check your pages and accounts to see if any new messages or notifications have popped up. The law and those responsible for it now have the task of adapting to the largest societal development of a generation and as we dawdle on this issue, our work becomes all the more gargantuan. I don’t like playing catch up any more than the next guy, but the legal profession has to start somewhere and the present has never been a bad place for that.

This blog is written by the law clerks and interns of the Rice Divorce Law. We document our experience working with Memphis Divorce Lawyer Larry Rice and Memphis Divorce Lawyer Nick Rice, as well as other members of the Rice Divorce Law. The Rice Law represents clients in Tennessee, including Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Columbia, Johnson City, and Knoxville. We hope these blog posts will be interesting and show the evolution of students as they move towards being divorce and family lawyers and paralegals. The statements in these posts should not be used as legal advice about divorce or family law.

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