Judges & Social Media: Managing the Risks
21 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2015 Last revised: 24 Jul 2015
Date Written: May 21, 2015
The aim of the present paper is to identify and address some of the fundamental ethical implications of social networking for members of the judiciary. By examining the unique characteristics of social media such as lack of data privacy and anonymity, the permanent nature of information appearing therein, and misconceptions that may arise in regards to social media users and their online activity, this paper explores the question of whether judges should maintain a social media account and, if so, how they should comport themselves in a virtual world. The authors of this paper assert that judges should be able to maintain an active presence on social media, while contemplating implications of social media activities for judges. Specifically, the authors analyze social media friendship with judges, investigation by judges of parties to legal proceedings or facts of a pending case, social media postings on pending cases and career/work issues, imparting incidents of judicial malpractice, and the sharing of private life activities by judges as manifested through social media (for example: sharing of personal information and photos, the use of “(dis)like”/“follow”/“comments” buttons and discussion threads, and participation in online groups and forums). The authors conclude that it is not the means of communication, but the way social media are used by judges that may lead to breaches of ethical rules. Consequently, the authors call for raising awareness among members of the judiciary about the appropriate use of social media, the development of best practices rooted in bright-line rules and technologically up-to-date guidelines that account for the ethical implications of social media use, and the operation of European ethics councils competently trained to implement such standards.
Keywords: Judges, social media, Europe, risks, freedom of expression, ethics
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation