Facebook as a legal document?

Having spent nearly a quarter century as on-the-street reporter, I admit I have spent more than my fair share of time being exposed to the down side of humanity.

One of the sad little facts I have learned is that the graveyards are filled with people, mostly women, with restraining orders. Facebook Logo

Another case occurred yesterday in Pierce County and it just makes me ill.

But in the reporting about the case, reporters and law enforcement were able to see the victim’s Facebook page and get a feel for what was going on in her life to possibly answer the “why” question we always ask when something tragic happens. I think Facebook is valuable for that reason alone – to give context to a person’s life events should they share enough information to glean meaning.

So it got me to thinking about using Facebook as a legal tool – to document the things in your life that could come up later and require a dated, documented, written record.

Your boss harassing you? Document it on Facebook. Ex-husband stalking you? Document it on Facebook. Facebook gives you a meta-data filled time-based record, and a slew of “friend” witnesses who can at least testify that this isn’t something you started complaining about yesterday.

Yes, it does require quite a bit of public disclosure, but you can fine-turn your privacy settings on Facebook. In addition, the day you file suit, or request a restraining order, or need to defend a complaint – well, your cause of action, or your defense, has a good place to start.

I realize this idea might be a little “out there” – and frankly I haven’t done the research necessary to tell you if there is any case law that speaks to the idea of a Facebook timeline as a legal document.

But I would like your feedback. Any lawyers out there who are starting to deal with the emergence of social media in a legal context?

It just seems to me that instead of telling nobody about your issues, and keeping a self-generated document on your own computer about your legal problem, Facebook would carry a lot more weight in swearing out a complaint. You’ve been fairly “public” about your problem. You may have friends who can chime-in as witnesses to some of the incidents you report. Your recording of events is carefully dated.

I don’t suggest Facebook can provide any more protection than does a restraining order, but it might be very valuable when the “why” question comes, or when it comes time to believe one side of a “he said, she said” dispute over the other.