DEBATE: Is Social Media viable evidence?

November 24, 2009·

Today, I simply want to pose a debate. There has been some major discussion in social networking platforms about the use (or non-use) of social media and it’s effect on the law, jobs, benefits, etc. There are two major recent cases that I want to use as fodder for this debate – and I really want to hear your opinions and get some good discussion going! Scales-1

HEADLINE: “Canadian woman loses benefits over Facebook photos.”

STORY: Basically, this woman was on long-term sick leave for diagnosed manic depression and was receiving benefits for her disorder. Manulife, her insurance company, saw pictures on her on a recent trip to the beach, at a birthday party, and on a night out with friends where she was smiling and looked “happy.” Her insurance agent used these photos as evidence that she was no longer depressed and the woman’s health benefits were immediately dropped.

DEBATE: There are a couple issues here and I have posed the following questions:

  1. It was reported that the woman’s photos were set to “private” on her Facebook page. With that being said, SHOULD these photos be allowed to be used as evidence if they were not intended for public viewing? Or is ALL content posted on a social networking site no longer “private”?
  2. Even if the photos were public, just because someone looks “happy,” does that mean they are healthy? Or should further investigation been taken?


STORY: 13-year-old singing sensation Justin Bieber was set to visit fans and sign autographs at Roosevelt Mall in New York last week. Well, Bieber stayed away from the mall because the crowd inside the mall had become too unruly. Bieber had tweeted for everyone to go home and that someone from his camp had already been arrested. Mall security was cracking DOWN! The police had asked James Roppo, an executive of Bieber’s label to send out a message via Twitter to get fans to leave and go home. Well, Roppo is not on Twitter – thus it was determined that he was “obstructing justice” and was arrested for not complying with police demands.


  1. Is the use of Social Media tools a viable source for “crowd control?” Do you think ONE Twitter message from a label exec would have controlled hundreds of screaming teenagers? BTW: Bieber did send out a message himself. Should that have been enough?
  2. Were the police doing the right thing by canceling the event?
  3. Should the police have been more understanding about the man NOT using Twitter and should they have offered another solution?
  4. Is Social Media a viable resource/non-resource to warrant someone’s arrest? Remember the case of the woman who was arrested for POKING someone on Facebook?


  • Are these social media outlets/tools/resources/whathaveyou being taken too seriously?
  • Should legislation be passed to regulate them?
  • Should it be up to the networks themselves?
  • Who OWNS these things and who has a right to the evidence they provide?

“They” say that once that information is out there it is no longer ours to keep. However, what about the printed word before social media? Newspapers, magazines, books, diaries, leaflets? Did we or do we no longer own that information either? Is it that once something is written down, it is out there to be used against us?

Why can’t people just be positive?!

What do you think? I really want to hear your thoughts on this… because you rock. Yeah, you. Reading this right now. You. You rock.


photo credit: stephanie bond law.