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Social media users largely unaware of legal risks involved in posting

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Many social media users — including near half on Facebook and YouTube — remain blissfully unaware that their posts can be used against them in court, according to a new survey. The good news is that younger users tend to be savvier.

The results are according to a survey by Lawyers.com, a New Providence-based online legal resource for small businesses and consumers.

“Our survey shows that most people are unaware that their online digital trail can and will be used against them in legal situations, despite privacy settings or deleted posts,” Lawyers.com editor Larry Bodine said in a statement.

“Social media users don't even need to post evidence of illegal activity: If a 'check-in' or an Instagram places a defendant somewhere they shouldn't have been, or claim not to have been, it impacts a case. Social media activity can absolutely be subpoenaed.

According to the group's survey, less than half social media users on five platforms believe what they post can become a legal liability. Results indicate 46 percent of Facebook users and 38 percent of Twitter users are aware of the risks.

The survey also found that younger users tend to be wiser to the pitfalls of too much sharing. Among Facebook users aged between 18 and 34, about 60 percent believe what they post can be used against them in court. That compares with 33 percent of users aged 55 and over.

The same survey found wealthier and more educated users tend to be more aware of potential legal problems from social media use.

Among users with household annual incomes higher than $75,000, about 60 percent of Facebook users believe what they post can be used against them, compared with 41 percent among users from households earning $25,000 or less. Similar trends uphold for users of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Vine.

Among Facebook users with a college degree or more, 64 percent are aware of potential legal problems stemming from social media use compared with 39 percent of those who attended high school or less. The other four platforms show similar patterns.

The survey was based on 1,001 telephone interviews conducted in April.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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