The judicial system moves slowly, but it does move. A judicial conference committee has updated the model set of jury instructions federal judges use to deter jurors from using social media to research or communicate about cases on which they serve. It has long been the case that jurors are to avoid contact about the case outside of the courtroom, the idea being that they should decide the case only on what is presented to them during the case. Back in the day, this usually amounted to simply avoiding newspapers and television and to eschew conversations with friends and family. However, communication has changed dramatically in recent years. The advent of social media–Facebook, Twitter, and the like–makes communication that much easier, even in cases where a jury has been sequestered. Moreover, people’s attitudes about social media often vary from how they view communication with “real” people in face-to-face conversations. People will often share much more about themselves and discuss otherwise taboo subjects in social media than in these more traditional contexts. This inclination is heightened by the often anonymous nature of these interactions. Thus, a simple admonition to avoid discussing the case might not even register when someone hops on their Google+ account to post about the day’s events in court. The new instructions make sense.
On the other hand, the model instructions reference MySpace, so….