Why Posting Crimes on Social Media Is A Bad Idea

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Social media, for better or worse, is here to stay. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter – there is a brave new world of connecting and sharing information with your friends, family and all of cyberspace. Police across the world are on social media too, and they are beginning to discover a new ways to use social media to catch law-breakers and to aid in investigations. A 2014 International Association of Chiefs of Police survey found that among the 600 law enforcement agencies questioned, about 95 percent use social media; 82.3 percent said that social media is foremost an investigatory tool; and 78.8 percent reported that social media helped solve crime in their jurisdictions.

In Pennsylvania, for example, a local newspaper started posting mug shots of people wanted by police officials on Pinterest, the popular photo-sharing site. As a result, the community experienced a 57% increase in arrests. Apparently, some people even called to say they had seen their own mug shot online and asked how to turn themselves in to authorities.

Closer to home, in Windsor, ON, police have been sharing videos on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to help solve petty crimes or to locate missing children. Police have always reached out to the public to help solve a large proportion of their crimes, and social media is a logical extension of what they have always done.

But for all the different ways that police are finding to use social media, some people are just making it far too easy for them. Things that happen in cyberspace have real life consequences – and oversharing can sometimes land you in jail.  Earlier this week, a woman in Florida was arrested and charged after she posted a video of herself saying she was driving drunk on the live streaming app Periscope. Two people apparently called 911 to report the video to police. Police officers then watched the video and were able to determine the woman’s location and pull her over.

Today, technology drives the way that people live their lives and the reach that social media provides is absolutely unprecedented. It’s therefore more important than ever to be careful of what you say and do online, keeping in mind that almost nothing is truly private. Once something is out there in cyberspace, it’s out there forever.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.