Social Media and the Courts: Innovative Tools or Dangerous Fad?
A fad is defined as “a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal; a craze.” Some of our court colleagues view virtual, mobile, and social technologies as fads, destined for history’s dustbin, like pagers and cassette tapes. But others view these technologies as important tools for achieving their courts’ core missions with increased effectiveness in the areas of efficiency, accessibility, accountability, and transparency.
This article gives a comprehensive overview of what social media are, why social media are important in society and the courts, how social media can be used effectively, what social media platforms are well-suited to the courts, what problems can arise, and how to proactively deal with such problems. In the early years of social media use in the courts there was a lot of skepticism. As we have gained experience most problems have been shown to be less severe or have been solved. Meanwhile, many usage advantages have become apparent. Research in the United States has shown that judges are increasingly supporting social media use by themselves and their courts, and are less concerned about problems and compromising ethics.
The courts hold a special place in government as impartial arbiters of legal disputes. We, as court leaders, must fulfill the public’s trust in us to achieve the highest level of service while upholding the rule of law. As we have seen, social media are excellent tools to make this a reality—the challenge is to securely and effectively leverage these tools in the court setting.