The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Social media and the Rule of Law

February 28 2017 28 February 2017

 

We have often discussed in this space the impact of social media and misinformation on public confidence in our justice system, and the need to adapt how we educate the public about the law.  Mark A. Cohen describes how he views the challenge:

Snippets of human interaction are captured on a smart phone or other device and go viral in minutes. This creates an instant, powerful, quickly scalable, and often biased court of public opinion. Social media is unfettered by rules of evidence that weigh credibility, materiality, and prejudicial impact. Social media is wildly popular because it is accessible, fast, unfiltered, and largely devoid of rules—the antithesis of the deliberate-often snail like pace of the judicial process. Social media has become a people’s court, shaping public opinion by providing a snapshot rather than a montage of human interaction and lacking truth filters. Social media also can serve as a global bullhorn for ‘leaks,’ misinformation, and propaganda. There are no easy fixes. Technologists, social scientists, media experts, legislators, and lawyers—among others– must create inter-disciplinary guardrails for social media to insure—among other things—that it does not subvert the judicial process. Social media is a new frontier in establishing appropriate boundaries for free speech as well as ensuring that the court of public opinion does not eclipse the judicial process as the arbiter of the social contract.

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