DIY – Social Media Facebook Profiles: Cats, Dogs and Grandchildren

Scouring social media for insights on potential jurors can yield very helpful information when preparing for trial. But in any secondary data review, there are risks associated with drawing hard conclusions from info that is self-generated or curated by an individual. Some weeks ago, a Harvard bound student with a valid Visa was stopped in Boston’s Logan Airport and sent back to Lebanon after US customs and immigration officials took his phone and looked at his social media. There they found posts by others expressing anti US views. The student protested that the questionable posts where not his, solicited by him, reflected his views or matched up with any expressed opinions he had offered on Facebook. He was denied entry and sent packing anyway. This story is an excellent reminder on the do’s and don’ts of secondary data research and the relative value of social media reviews. Facebook/Social Media is a stage where people often get off on promoting themselves as a character. On Facebook, etc. people are free to have another life where they can position themselves by pushing forward articles, pictures or posts about how they want to be seen rather than who they really are. Understanding the actor that is on stage can be helpful, but back- grounding any potential juror should be done with multiple public information streams. Restricting any juror review to only one data source is bound to create some false conclusions. And even though social media interaction is ever present and being used across generations, many, many people post nothing of value. In our experience reviewing lists for trial teams, about 33% of the names on any juror list have no or only a very limited social media footprint. That will change – but right now, reviewing sites where there are only pictures of cats, dogs and grandchildren has little predictive value.