Instagram Account Attacks Criminal Trial Witnesses in Pennsylvania

Social media has infiltrated nearly every facet of our lives, especially those of the younger generation. Some of this inclusion is for the good, while some of the roles social media has played have been shocking.

One such negative use of social media recently caught national attention, affecting criminal law in Pennsylvania.

An anonymous Instagram account has aimed to expose and intimidate violent crime victims in southeastern Pennsylvania. The account was removed from Instagram in November.

The user, hiding behind the name “rats215,” had almost 7,900 followers, posted more than 150 photos, and revealed more than 30 witnesses since February 2013, according to Mashable.

The Instagram account apparently was being used to intimidate witnesses from testifying in violent crime cases in Philadelphia. The accountholder claimed the goal was to “expose rats.”

The photos on the account showed pictures of witnesses testifying in court, even court documents with witness identification that would normally be redacted.

What’s truly troubling is that no one is exactly sure how “rats215” was able to obtain the documents and photos.

The account was deactivated shortly after a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer brought it to Instagram’s attention. Instagram has not said that they removed the account themselves, but did indicate that “rats215” violated its terms of service.

As an experienced criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania, this story is truly shocking and demonstrates to all of us the extreme potential social media has on the criminal justice system—for good and bad.

If you have questions about this incident, or feel your own rights are being severely violated during a criminal trial through the abuse of social media, contact an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney right away.

Instagram Account Attacks Criminal Trial Witnesses in Pennsylvania was last modified: February 18th, 2016 by Steven Trialonas