Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tweet deletion may lead to tampering with evidence charges

May deleting a Tweet and/or sending out false and misleading social media posts result in tampering with evidence charges? In the case against Dharun Rhavi regarding his alleged role in roommate Tyler Clementi's apparent suicide, evidence tampering charges are based upon allegedly deleting a Tweet and creating false and/or misleading social media posts.

Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University and it is believed he committed suicide last year by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. It is thought that Clementi was so distraught after he found out that Ravi had webcasted a sexual encounter that Clementi had with another man Clementi decided to take his own life.

After law enforcement started to investigate the circumstances surrounding Clementi's death, it is alleged that Ravi tampered with evidence by deleting one or more of his Tweets and making false and/or misleading social media posts in an effort to cover up the allegations that he may have invaded Clementi's privacy.

Deleting Tweets and/or trying to cover up one's online activity is futile. Whether its the Library of Congress preserving public Tweets or Google indexing an old cached version of a website or a post, once something is put online it can never be permanently removed from the Internet.

I believe evidence tampering charges based on social media usage will increase in the future as more people utilize social media and social media becomes a larger part of the judicial process. I have no idea if Ravi was deleting his Tweets to intentionally tamper with evidence of if he was just a scared college freshman who was afraid of the media scrutiny that was surrounding his roommate's death.

This is another example of how one's online activities are just as important, if not more so, than everything done off-line. Unfortunately, it appears that a few clicks of a mouse along with some ill-advised Tweets and other social media posts may have contributed to the suicide of young person.

In the Internet Age, a hidden web cam in the movie American Pie was a funny joke. In the Social Media Age, a hidden web cam is no laughing matter because billions of people may view what is streamed online and this may have unintended consequences.

This tragic case should be a wake up call to restart a national conversation on personal privacy. I believe social media education should be taught starting in elementary school. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) only protects children under the age of 13 so our children should be provided the tools necessary to successfully navigate the Social Media Age before they reach 13 years of age. If the lessons learned from this tragedy are not discussed with our children Tyler Clementi will have died in vain.

To learn how to protect your privacy and your children in the Social Media Age you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

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