LAWS3317 Social Media and the Law

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the Law and Society major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 3 elective
More than a billion people, businesses, governments and other entities currently use social media. Judicial officers, courts, lawyers and other individuals in the legal system also use social media. However, the law generally struggles to keep up with making changes that are necessary or beneficial due to social media's existence. For example, most Australian courts only developed policies/Australian governments only passed legislation concerning whether journalists can use social media in courtrooms about seven years after social media was created and years after millions of Australians started to use it. This unit gives students an understanding of many of the key legal and ethical issues that social media raises for the law.

In this unit, students learn about some of the areas in which social media plays a significant role in the law. In the first eight lectures students learn about how social media impacts upon specific stakeholders in the legal system. For the next four lectures students learn about how social media impacts upon specific areas of law.
Four main themes of this unit are: (a) social media poses many challenges and benefits for the legal system and there are many more yet to come; (b) Australian law is slow to adapt to social media; (c) in some instances social media creates new situations that the legal system has yet to experience before and in some instances social media may simply be a contemporary take on a long-standing issue; it can be contentious which situation is which; and (d) it can be challenging to decide whether new ethical guidelines are necessary that apply to social media or whether existing ethical guidelines are sufficient to apply to social media (e.g. ethical guidelines for the judiciary and for lawyers).
Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of what social media are and the main social media that Australians use; (2) explain who are the key legal stakeholders affected by social media and the challenges and opportunities that they face; (3) describe how social media impacts upon established areas of law, including defamation, criminal law, employment law and evidence; and (4) compare and contrast the approach that courts in different common law systems have taken regarding social media and the law.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial presentation; (2) assessment; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Marilyn Bromberg
Unit rules
LAWS1111 Law, Conflict and Change
LAWS2227 Law in Action
Advisable prior study:
LAWS1104 Introduction to Law; LAWS1120 Australian Legal Principles and Institutions
Contact hours
3 hours per week
Unit Outline
Semester 1-2020 [SEM-1-2020]

A full reading list for the tutorials each week is provided via LMS. The reading list draws heavily from Marilyn Bromberg-Krawitz, Issues Paper for a Symposium: Challenges of Social Media for Courts & Tribunals (May 2016). Additional books, articles, websites, etc., are also included. These additional texts will be made available electronically where possible.

Some additional resources and reading for the unit are listed below. A list with additional resources and reading is provided at the start of the unit:

Blackham, A. and Williams, G. ‘Social Media and Court Communication’ (2015) Public Law Journal 403.

Gibson, J. ‘Judges, Cyberspace and Social Media’ (2015) 12(2) Judicial Review 237. 

Gibson, J. Should Judges Use Social Media? (31 May 2013) New South Wales District Court <>.

Krawitz, M. An Examination of Social Media's Impact upon the Courts in Australia (PhD (Law) Thesis, Murdoch University, 2014).

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.