Philadelphia Bar Association on Social Media

/ 08.Aug, 2014
man-404376_640One of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s most recent advisory ethics opinions involves issues surrounding advising clients regarding social media, specifically Facebook.  Although specifically addressing Facebook, the opinion states the opinion is applicable to all social media.   The opinion addresses: 1) Whether an attorney may advise a client to change privacy settings on a social media account; 2) Whether an attorney may instruct a client to delete material the lawyer believes is damaging from a Facebook page; 3) Whether an attorney who receives a request for production of documents must produce a copy of the photograph the attorney saw on the client’s Facebook page; 4) Whether an attorney who receives a request for production of documents must produce a copy of a photograph posted by someone other than the client on the client’s Facebook page. None of the opinions of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s ethics committee are particularly surprising.  As the committee noted, these are, at their most basic level, issues regarding the obligations of party and attorney to preserve evidence.  The duties do not change regardless of the form of evidence, and discoverable information may not be concealed or destroyed.  The committee found an attorney could advise a client to change privacy settings on social media utility, but could not advise a client to delete or destroy material.  The committee found attorneys most produce relevant material on the client’s Facebook page whether posted by the client or not.  The opinion is completely consistent with every authority we are aware of which has addressed these issues. –Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire