LAWS3317 Social Media and the Law

Credit
6 points
Offering
(see Timetable)

If this unit does not have an online alternative, then students who are presently unable to enter Western Australia and whose studies would be delayed by an inability to complete this unit, should contact the unit coordinator (details given on this page) to ascertain, on an individual case-by-case basis, if alternate arrangements can be made to support their study in this unit.

AvailabilityLocationMode
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face Predominantly face-to-face. On campus attendance required to complete this unit. May have accompanying resources online.
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the Law and Society major sequence
  • Level 3 elective
Content
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).
Outcomes
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.
Assessment
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) 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
Prerequisites:
LAWS1111 Law, Conflict and Change or LAWS1112 Adulting: Law for Everyday Lives and LAWS2227 Law in Action
Advisable prior study:
LAWS1104 Introduction to Law; LAWS1120 Australian Legal Principles and Institutions
Contact hours
3 hours per week
Texts

A full reading list for the tutorials each week is provided on LMS. Since the unit is very contemporary and experiences changes all the time, there is no appropriate book for the unit. Instead, there are relevant articles, policy documents and internet pages that comprise the readings for the unit.

Some of the articles and policy documents that students will read in the unit are:

Marilyn Bromberg and Andrew Ekert, ‘Caution: Tweet at Your Own Risk - Social Media and the Australian Legal Profession’ (2018) 7 Journal of Civil Litigation and Practice 183.

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.

Tasmania Law Reform Institute, Jurors, Social Media and the Right of an Accused to a Fair Trial (Final Report, January 2020). 

Raymond Surette, ‘Performance Crime and Justice (2015) 27(2) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 195. 

  • 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.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.