New Survey Confirms Courts Hesitant to Embrace Social Media
While lawyers have begun warming to social media, courts are still hesitant to embrace the new technology. Half of the country’s court system currently do not use any form of social media, according to a recent report.
The results are not surprising giving that social media comes with both risks and rewards. While twitter, Facebook, and other platforms provide new opportunities to communicate with the pubic, when not used appropriately, they can also compromise the integrity of the judicial system.
The report, “New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and A Look at the Future,” was prepared by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers, the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and the National Center for State Courts. The organizations surveyed 623 respondents, including judges, magistrates, and court personnel, about the effects of new media on court proceedings; ethics and conduct for judges and court employees; and courts’ ability to promote understanding and public trust.
While most of the respondents recognized the growing importance of Facebook, YouTube, twitter and smartphones, whether they should be incorporated into the judicial system is a more complicated issue. “What is emerging is a picture of courts both cautiously guarding against the potential harm social media can pose to proceedings while at the same time embracing the potential benefits emerging digital media offer for communications programs,” the report states.
Below are some of the most interesting findings:
- Nearly half of judges (47.8 percent) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Judges can use social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their professional lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics.”
- More than half (56 percent) of judges report routine juror instructions including some component about new media use during the trial.
- A small fraction of courts (6.7 percent) currently have social media profile sites like Facebook; 7 percent use microblogging sites like Twitter; and 3.2 percent use visual media sharing sites like YouTube.
As the report notes, much of the resistance to social media can be attributed to the traditional nature of our courts. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube tend to be informal, personal and highly visual, which is everything American courts are not.