Looking at the world today, we recognize the amazing things modern technology has made possible. The ability to instantly communicate with people around the world. The ability to share our thoughts with others, and for those thoughts and ideas to grow and build on each other. However, the instantaneous nature of the ability to respond without forethought and the false veil of anonymity people believe the internet provides has created problems.
Anyone with a social media account sees the daily occurrence of a joke or rant that seems extreme. Some people even post photos of themselves or others committing illegal acts, or posts describing illegal activities. What some people fail to realize is the reach of these posts, the various interpretations, and how these posts might affect them now and in the future.
From a criminal defense standpoint, it is all too common to see prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and probation officers searching the social media pages of individuals they are investigating or supervising. It is also common to see these posts containing either references to or images of drug use, gang activities, or other criminal activities. These types of posts help solidify the prosecution in many criminal cases.
Even when the posts do not rise to direct admissions of criminal activities, there are posts that one person may see as a joke or an effort to shock the conscience that others may see as a legitimate threat. Most recently reaching national attention, is the story of Justin Carter who is charged with a Third-Degree Terroristic Threat in Texas for a Facebook post. He is accused of posting comments on Facebook that led law enforcement to believe that he was threatening to shoot kindergarteners. According to local media, law enforcement in Texas was provided a screen shot of the post from a Canadian resident who was alarmed by the post. This led to Carter’s arrest and confinement for this charge. Regardless of whether you believe he should or should not be prosecuted, this situation shows a clear example of what can happen with your social media posts.
Even if your posts don’t land you in jail, anything you post will be on the internet forever, and can follow you through the rest of your life. It is also very common for employers to look at social media sites for the pages of potential employees. These employers will look at your social media pages to try to assess what type person you are, and whether they think you are the type of person they want as their employee.
If there is a moral or lesson to be learned from situations like the one Justin Carter faces, it is to take a step back and think about the big picture before you post.