Can Facebook destroy your chnaces in court?

Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law…anything on Facebook that is.

This article highlights a relatively new concept of ‘E-Discovery’ where what you post on social media can actually backfire on you in a courtroom. In a recent case, Gatto v. United Air Lines Inc, the Judge recently ruled that the jury could draw an adverse inference against the plaintiff for his failure to preserve his Facebook account during trial. Basically the plaintiff was suing the airline after unloading luggage in an aircraft ‘rendered him permanently disabled’. United Airlines begged to differ as they suspected Facebook provided evidence to the contrary with physical activities, vacations and online business activities abundant on his Facebook account.


After a bit of back and forth, voila, Gatto’s Facebook account was permanently deleted which the defendants claimed was spoliation of evidence. The judge concurred and the jury was allowed to draw an adverse inference against the plaintiff.


This article brings to mind several hot topics, the obvious being that one needs to be cautious of everything they most on Facebook that could have an adverse reaction. Everything you put on Facebook is yes indeed ‘public’ but does that mean that in court the opposing party can demand that you give away your username and password so they can dig deep into your account?  There are privacy settings on social networking sites, are they irrelevant when it comes to trial? Also in this case was it fair for the judge to allow an adverse inference that the jury could use against the plaintiff? The jury or judge or anyone for that matter never saw Gatto’s Facebook account! Seems as though Facebook/Twitter/Instagram is no longer just a social networking website but rather a storage of evidence that cannot be tampered with.  


2 thoughts on “Can Facebook destroy your chnaces in court?

  1. The point of social networking sites is to share information, photos, and interests with your friends. But when you engage in sharing these aspects of your life with your friends through social media, you should know that you are inevitably sharing them with the public. Facebook is constantly changing their privacy settings and although they give you control, its is difficult to truly know who is seeing what.

    Therefore, as a user of social media, myself and others should always be conscious about what we are posting, assuming that anyone will be able to view what we post.

    In the end I think the jury should be able to access social media accounts for information; it is similar to looking back at phone records. People in a situation such as Gatto should probably be smarter about what they post to begin with.

  2. Whether this was intentional or a “convenient” misinterpretation of the legal policies of Facebook, the fact that the courts ruled that this gentlemen’s Facebook page was required to be current during a legal proceeding is interesting. Seems to be proof that Social Media regulations are being interpreted and implemented ad hoc.

    Bottom line, nothing is private and anything can be used against you in a court of law.

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