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I’m learning how to blog. Facebook I use mainly for social purposes. My Twitter account focuses on issues relating to my law practice. Nevertheless, social media is ever-expanding and it’s hard to find a person today who isn’t engaged in using social media in one way, or another.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that yesterday I had a brief, heated dialogue with a media outlet that tweeted something quite untrue relating to the court case of a client of mine. For the record, the reporter who made the honest mistake (and I dobelieve it was an honest mistake) has since retracted the tweet and I’m sure the mistake will not be repeated. But I’m assuming the erroneous tweet was made in a rush to deliver some ‘breaking news’, but the facts were wrong before it was sent out. This is one of the risks associated with Twitter.

I can sympathize with what happened yesterday because I’ve been in that situation myself – I sent out tweets that later regret and wish I could take back (I deleted them asap, but I know many people have likely already seen the tweet). For myself, there was a steep learning curve when I started using Twitter and I learned a couple Golden Rules when using Twitter:

1) Make sure you are certain that what you are saying is true and factually correct, and

2) Don’t tweet when you are overly emotional (ie: pissed off, upset etc.).

Coincidentally, yesterday Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin of the Supreme Court of Canada gave a speech to some university students about how Canada’s justice system needs to embrace and better understand the reach of social media. Today, reporters want to tweet information from inside courtrooms, jury trials have been jeopardized because jurors have been caught tweeting/googling cases they’re sitting on, and Facebook profiles have been places where evidence for criminal and civil trials have been gathered. These are some of the many issues that Madam Justice McLaughlin likely anticipates that the justice system will have to come to grips with as social media’s relevance expands in our society. I thought it was great that our country’s top judge has taken such a progressive approach to better understanding social media’s impact on our justice system – and I know it will have a trickle-down effect to courtrooms across Canada.

What are your thoughts on social media’s role in our justice system? Should judges tweet about cases they are deciding? What about Crown prosecutors? Would the public gain a better understanding about a particular case if these players were permitted to do so?

I do not know the answers to those questions… but if they do tweet, they should follow my two Golden Rules above.

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