Twible. What does that even mean? It’s twitter (or social media/Facebook) defamation. Don’t think that angry, drunken tweet against your ex can be used against you? Think again.

Anything that you post to a social media account may be used against you in court. In August 2012, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III ruled that posts on Facebook are admissible in court, even if your profile isn’t public. If you have a high privacy setting, your social media posts may be admissible in court if one of your “friends” shares them with government officials or the court.

Civil Suits

When you post a comment on someone else’s social media profile page, or “wall,” that results in damages, a judge may find you libel. For example, if a women gets hired to work as a nanny for the summer and a vengeful ex-friend posts a harmful lie on the woman’s social media wall that results in her getting fired, a judge may order the ex-friend to pay the would-be nanny the amount of money that she would have earned during the summer. At the same time, the ex-friend may have to admit to her mal intent or the parent may have to testify that the post influenced the hiring decision.

Hacking, Unlawfully Acquired and Inadmissible Posts

In some courts, an individual may have to authenticate a social media post before a judge allows their use as evidence. A court won’t use a social media post against you if someone hacked or gained access to your social media account and posted on your behalf without your permission. Similarly, if an individual accessed or hacked into someone social else’s account to find a post that you wrote, a judge may state that the post was unlawfully acquired and not admissible.

Social Media in Family Law Cases

Lawyers often turn to social media to find evidence that support their clients’ claims – especially in Family Law cases that surround custody. Situations in which a social media post may be used as evidence in family court include:

  • Divorce: A judge may base rulings regarding the dissipation of marital assets and alimony on social media posts. For example, if one party requests spousal support because he can’t find a job and has no skill sets, a judge may deny the request if he lists job skills in a professional social media profile and posts about going to interviews. A lawyer may use a compromising picture of a wife with a man who isn’t her husband or her profile on a dating website in a divorce settlement.
  • Child custody, support and visitation rights: When a parent or guardian wants to deny custody or child visitation rights to another individual, a lawyer may use a social media post or picture to demonstrate that the person in question is unfit. Damaging posts can include those that talk about or show illegal activities or substance abuse, relationship status changes or those where you refer behaving irresponsibly when you’re supposed to be with the children. Similarly, if you claim that you have no money during a child support hearing, but have pictures or posts about purchasing expensive items or going on trips, a judge may not rule in your favor.

Smart Social Media Practices

Regardless of the platform, social media is never private. There is always a way to access posts, even if you deleted content from your profile. The best way to prevent having your social media posts used against you in court is to post comments and pictures that don’t compromise your integrity. In addition, you can keep others from posting pictures or messages about you by changing your privacy settings. Instead of deleting posts from your social media accounts during legal proceedings, talk to your lawyer about the best way to do damage control legally.