Trial by social media – juries in the digital age

Posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is usually harmless fun. But one place where you must resist the lure of social media is the jury pool room.

Particular laws apply to juries and social media and breaching those laws attracts serious penalties, including hefty fines or even a jail term.

Victoria Law Foundation had a chat to Juries Commissioner Paul Dore to find out more about juries and social media.

How can jury members get into trouble with social media?

‘One of the main ways jurors get into trouble is by friending fellow jurors on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and identifying them as fellow jurors on a trial through photographs and tagging,’ says Juries Commissioner Paul Dore.

In Victoria it is unlawful to publish any information or image that identifies a person attending for jury service.

‘The reason for this law is to protect the jury and to minimise the likelihood of jurors being intimidated or influenced in any way,’ Commissioner Dore explains.

‘The media is prohibited from publishing names, photographs or any details that could lead to the identification of a juror. Unlike in the United States, we don’t have a celebrity culture around juries.’

Be an informed jury member

Part of the problem is how much a natural part of our lives social media use has become.

‘I don’t think people ask enough questions, perhaps assuming their role as juror or prospective juror is no different than any other aspect of their lives where they can take photos, tag, post, comment and advertise their every action and experience,’ Commissioner Dore says.

‘We are doubling our efforts to inform people of the need to alter their expectations while on jury service with respect to social media and googling every topic of interest at will.’

To find out more about what you can and can’t do on a jury, and how the digital age has impacted jury service, come and hear Commissioner Dore speak during Law Week.

Find the event details and discover more Law Week events at the Law Week website.

This information applies to the law in Victoria.