Trial by Social Media: how do you find the jury, guilty or not guilty?
Authors: Tarrant, G. and Taylor, J.
Editors: Tomei, L.
Journal: International Journal of Cyber Research and Education
Publisher: IGI Global
Social media makes it easier than ever to access information and opinions associated with criminal proceedings, and viewing or discussing these pre-trial could reduce juror impartiality. This study explored whether viewing social media comments influenced mock juror verdicts. Seventy two participants formed twelve 6-person ‘mock juries’. All participants received information regarding a murder trial. Nine groups were exposed to social media comments, manipulated to be negative, positive or neutral towards the defendant. The remaining three groups only received trial information (control condition). Results showed that prior to group discussion, exposure to negatively-biased comments significantly increased the number of guilty verdicts, however these effects disappeared after group discussion. Therefore, although jurors may be unable to remain impartial before a trial, jury discussion can remove these prejudices; supporting previous group research. Further research is suggested where participants interact actively with social media, rather than passively viewing comments.