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Monday, August 2, 2021

Panel hashes out legal problems caused by social media

Legal experts gathered last Wednesday in Wilkins Moot Courtroom at the UC Davis School of Law to discuss how the law might adapt to social media.

“Everything is out in the open and dangerous now, because we’re all carrying multimedia devices,” said UC Davis law professor Anupam Chander.

However phone-possessors are in danger too, should they choose to engage in inappropriate conduct via text message, said Sacramento attorney Roger Dreyer.

“Things aren’t gone when you press delete,” Dreyer cautioned. “When you text, that information can be stored on your SIM card.”

The panel, called “Social Media as Evidence: New Legal and Ethical Frontiers,” was comprised of Dreyer, UC Davis law professors Edward Imwinkelried and Chander, Cassandra Ferrannini, a partner in the Sacramento firm Downey Brand, and Catherine Kirkman, a partner in the Palo Alto firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.

Hollis Kulwin, senior assistant dean for student affairs at the UC Davis School of Law moderated the discussion.

Kirkman said developments in social media make it extremely difficult for companies to manage around a certain level of risk, and that without embracing that risk there cannot be progress on the social media front.

“Do you say, ‘There are too many concerns, no, don’t do it?'” she asked. “Or maybe it’s ‘No, this is something we think is valuable and we are going to manage risk around that with a rational strategy.'”

According to Dreyer, pictures on Facebook or Twitter – the weapons most commonly used against accused wrongdoers – are hard to refute because of their ability to capture a moment.

“[They] may smile and have a beer in their hand with a buddy, but then leave the party a minute later but you can’t explain that to a jury,” he said. “The visual evidence is very overpowering.”

The picture’s purpose as a moment of representation acts as a double-edged sword is especially apparent to candidates for office.

Chander noted that after any type of nomination, things are instantly brought to the public’s attention. Public figures are faced with a moral dilemma, knowing such exposure is inevitable.

“Do you hide anything?” he asked. “Or do you take the risk of being true to yourself, exploring, taking chances, while knowing that chance-taking will put you at risk in the future?”

MIKE DORSEY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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