Vol. 79 No. 5. Thinking Ethics: "TWEET" THIS: The Ethics of Social Networking.

Author:By J. Nick Badgerow

Kansas Bar Journal

Ethics Columns.


Vol. 79 No. 5.

Thinking Ethics: "TWEET" THIS: The Ethics of Social Networking

Vol. 79 No. 5 May 2010Thinking Ethics: "TWEET" THIS: The Ethics of Social NetworkingBy J. Nick BadgerowSocial Networking is Here. While skeptics viewed the initial wave of electronic social networking as a passing fad, the ensuing years have proved them wrong. At this point, the numbers tell the story:

Facebook leads the way, with more than 400 million active users. More than 5 billion pieces of content, including 60 billion photos, are shared among the members each month.(fn1) MySpace boasts 100 million active users.(fn2) Twitter has 75 million users, who post 50 million tweets every day. That is an average of 600 tweets per second.(fn3) LinkedIn "has over 60 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world."(fn4) YouTube shows videos of every kind and nature. A recent search found more than 120,000 videos, which include the subject "lawyer."(fn5) Of course, these are only some of the more popular examples.(fn6)

With so much electronic communication and interaction, the user is likely to "get it wrong" once in a while. Further, the narcissistic need to share one's every thought and action can lead to regrettable posts that cannot be rescinded.(fn7) To paraphrase Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo, "[t]he hand once set to a Tweet may not be withdrawn with impunity."(fn8)

Social Networking and Lawyer Marketing

Despite reputation and appearances, lawyers do try to keep up with changes in society - though often perhaps a step behind. Many lawyers have today ventured into the realm of social networking in an effort to improve their visibility for marketing purposes.(fn9) Indeed, the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct recognize this obvious reality in the Comment to Rule 7.2 (Advertising):

Similarly, electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services, and lawful communication by electronic mail is permitted by this Rule.[(fn10)]

According to a 2009 survey by the ABA, 43 percent of the lawyers surveyed have a presence on Facebook, while a surprising 12 percent of law firms have a Facebook page.(fn11) There are so many lawyer- and law firm-blogs that a special site has been set up just to synthesize and present only the perceived...

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