Social media evolving the way people follow court cases

Published: Jul. 13, 2013 at 1:24 AM CDT
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BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - Trayvon Martin's attorney has credited social media in attracting national attention to the case. Now, in the last stretch of the trial, many are taking to social media to express who they support. Lately, Trayvon Martin supporters have started what they call "A Blackout for Justice."

Blacked out avatars have been popping up on social media sites along with hash tags: #JusticeforTrayvon and #blackout. It's a movement that Bossier Parish Community College Social Media Expert Kim Webb says would be impossible without social media. The Martin supporters' campaign highlights the new way technology influences how people watch high-profile court stories unfold. "Before social media, all communication was downward, people were told what they were going to hear, people are now able to give their opinions and the communication has been moved sideways," said Kim Webb.

The trial has been a top trend almost daily, with thousands of people tweeting opinions and Webb says in many ways social media removes local restraints and helps people connect to cases in cities that may be far away to them. "Social media has taken the restraints off of who you know, the hash tag is all about common interests, so people are developing relationships outside of their community," said Webb.

New media hasn't just revolutionized the way people follow the cases. It's also had an impact inside the courts. Jurors, witnesses' and even attorneys social media profiles have been under the microscope. Even one witness who took the stand became the brunt of social media jokes for the way her nails looked and the way she talked. "It has lawyers and jurors and anybody involved on their toes, as far as how to move and react, because as soon as you do it, it's going to be online," said Webb.

Many of the people with the blacked out avatars say they won't take it down until the verdict is read.

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