Attorney Breaks Down Legality Case Developing on Social Media - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Wheeling Attorney Breaks Down Legality of Rape Case Developing on Social Media

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In the months after a recent rape case in Steubenville, the nation is now watching the case develop on social media.

Friday, 7News sat down with Holly Planinsic, an Attorney with Herndon, Morton, Herndon & Yaeger in Wheeling, to talk about the way the law interacts with social media in situations like this one.

When it comes to the inflammatory comments popping up on social media sites, Planinsic says that people shouldn't be too quick to post anything they want anonymously without fear of having their identities discovered.

"People need to realize that there are ways to discover who they are," she said.  "One of the ways that someone can use to discover the identity of an anonymous poster, would be a John Doe lawsuit."

In that case, the plaintiff can issue a subpoena to an internet service provider for documents that would reveal the identity of the poster and the commenter. 

Planinsic said it holds each person accountable for what they say, post, write and ultimately publish, but that's just the average citizen.

"A group like Anonymous is sophisticated in using very elaborate technical precautions to be sure that their identities can not be revealed," she said.

For those average citizens, defamatory comments can land you in a court room. Truth is the ultimate defense to any claim of defamation, but Planinsic urges you to be careful about repeating, and re posting things if you aren't sure that the information is accurate. 

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered when dealing with information released on social media.

Planinsic says it's important to look at the full context of a posting, including how long that person has been posting, whether they are using their real name, and whether or not you are able to contact that person directly to verify the information.

"In the case of the lengthy video that was just released, it appeared to be authentic, but you weren't really sure," Planinsic said.  "Then the police, who had that video for quite some time, were able to authenticate that it was a piece of evidence involved in that case."

Planinsic said it seems that all the evidence that can be gathered, is being gathered.

"I don't believe that Anonymous has any more information that would be relevant to the case, than law enforcement authorities," she said.  "It just doesn't appear that way at this time."