Recently, there have been a large number of instances involving scary clowns: not only in the Birmingham area, but around Alabama and the country. In Alabama alone, Al.com reports that there have been arrests in Calhoun, Escambia, Etowah, Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery counties based on threatening posts on social media sites, including Facebook, by clowns. As an attorney, are you competent to respond when your client calls, whether it is the school board where the threats were made, or the individual arrested for making terrorist threats?
Also in Alabama, the understaffed and underfunded Department of Corrections is facing another type of social media controversy. As Fox6 reported late last month, “Prisoners in one of Alabama's maximum-security prisons are using illegal cellphones smuggled in to cell blocks to broadcast live on Periscope up to five times a day.” Prisoners have PayPal accounts associated with their Periscope accounts, and are asking for money to buy items from the prison stores. As an attorney, are you prepared to represent the prisoners who may be charged with felonies for using contraband, the cell phones, while incarcerated?
Around the country, attorneys are constantly faced with ethical issues surrounding the use of social media. Competency: do you even know what Periscope is and how it is used? Discovery and preservation of evidence: do you advise clients to preserve, and not destroy, social media that may be evidence in a case? Supervision of associates/paralegals/administrative assistants: do you advise your staff to improperly friend unrepresented parties to gain access to social media sites that may be helpful to your case? Advertising: do you know what Avvo is and how you can get disciplined, up to including disbarment, for the improper use of Avvo? Unauthorized practice of law: do you respond to individuals on social media who may be located in another state where you are not licensed to practice? These are just some of the many complicated and unusual issues that attorneys face surrounding the use of social media.