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Dangers of Social Media

The revolving door of technology continues to turn, presenting society with new problems to face. Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging website that allows users to post and read short text-based updates (no more than 140 characters). The mini-blogs are displayed on the user’s profile page, and they can also be viewed by others who have signed up to follow specific profiles.

A juror posted several messages to Twitter’s website during a trial involving a building materials company that had been sued by two investors. The trial resulted in a $12.6 million verdict against the building materials company. The company and its owner have appealed the verdict, alleging that the messages sent by the juror show that he was biased against them and “predisposed toward giving a verdict that would impress his audience.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney does not believe a new trial will be granted, because “Arkansas law requires defendants to prove that outside information entered the jury room and corrupted a verdict — not that information from the jury made its way out.” However, it is possible that this incident may affect public policy in the future, perhaps leading to a scenario where all communication devices are sequestered during court proceedings.

Design and construction firms would be well-advised to educate their employees about the potential dangers of social networking. While firms cannot monitor and restrict what employees do online during non-working hours, posting tweets (Twitter messages) and other messages about clients or projects through social networking sites could expose firms to claims.

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