December 2011-There are not many people today who are not familiar with Facebook or Twitter. There are even fewer individuals who do not use the internet to communicate in some way and it is also becoming easier and easier to get online while on the go.
There are many advantages to this kind of communication. We can stay in touch with family and friends across the country and around the world much easier than ever before. We can stay in touch with people we otherwise might have lost touch with.
Unfortunately, just as technology gives people new ways to stay in touch, it also gives us all kinds of new ways to fight. People can now text, tweet, or message their anger at or to each other. People have an outlet right at their fingertips to broadcast their thoughts to the world. Arguments are no longer private-an insult that would have been spoken directly and privately to another person can now be broadcast for the world to see, or at least for Twitter followers or Facebook friends to see. There's also a permanent record of these arguments and insults.
What many people don't realize is that as soon as an insult is published, and posting something online can count, it could end up in Court. Publishing "defamatory" comments could give the person those comments are aimed at a reason to sue you. The records of Facebook, Twitter, cell phone companies and internet service providers can all be subpoenaed to Court.
For example, if you have an argument with someone and then post a comment calling them racist, and if they can prove that this comment has damaged them in some way, they can bring you to Court. Unless you can prove that your comment was true, and that they actually are racist, you could lose that lawsuit.
Let's take our example a bit further. You post a comment that Tim is racist. You don't really think Tim is racist and you've never actually heard him make a racist comment, but it's the first thing that pops into your head when you're angry so you go with it. Let's say Tim has a job interview the next day with Bob that goes really well. In his research, Bob does a Google search of Tim. Somehow, your comment pops up. Bob believes that Tim is racist and doesn't hire Tim because of it. If Tim sues you saying it's your fault that he has lost wages, and if Tim wins, that comment could end up being a very expensive one.
Obviously, not all insults posted on Facebook are going to lead to lawsuits, but what we post online can end up having very real consequences.