Social Media as Legal Evidence

A Guide to Using Social Media as Legal Evidence

Governing bodies all around the world are still attempting to implement regulations and standards for internet usage, particularly social media. However, social media can actually serve as admissible evidence in a court of law, especially if you gather them effectively enough.

Whether you are looking to present evidence from tweets, Instagram pictures, YouTube videos, or Facebook posts and comments, here are some practices to best capture social media for court evidence.

Capture profiles in full

Should you need to use someone’s social media profile as evidence, make sure that you capture the profile in full. If it is a Facebook profile, for example, you should capture all sections of their profile, including the pages of their ‘About’ section, Groups, and Friends. Within the profile, you should also get all posts and comments in full, whether they have expandable, scrolling, and archived content. This way, you are still able to document it in case the profile (or parts of its contents) gets deleted, and you can also provide the full context of conversations and posts.

Uncover hiding spots

Most social media platforms have a lot of tabs and expandable comments that may contain contents that are not immediately visible. Even if you are sure that you are deeply familiar with the sites or applications, these platforms are constantly updated, so make sure to consult with an expert first where evidence may be hidden within each platform.

Unfamiliarity with social media and hiding spots for crucial content can lead to dire consequences. In England, the law enforcement’s unfamiliarity with Facebook led for a young man to be wrongfully convicted of rape, because they failed to access conversations that would have proven his innocence.

Gather key metadata

To prove the authenticity of your evidence, you should collect all the metadata associated with the content (timestamps, IP addresses, URLs, etc.). Make sure that you gather it at the same time or before you capture the content. You may not think that you are going to need it in court, but having the metadata can further solidify and secure your evidence.

Leverage technology

If your party handles the evidence collection directly, your involvement in the case may become unnecessarily complicated. There are web collection and social media archiving technology that can serve as a trusted third-party for gathering social media evidence. These tools also keep attorneys and their staff safe from the consequences of not preserving the digital chain of custody.

Remember that you must obtain an affidavit to support your evidence and verify the authenticity of the web capture tool and method.

Document the content accurately

You should be able to present the evidence as accurately as you can. You have to capture an authentic representation of the web content, so it would appear exactly like how it does online when you save or print it. Doing so will avoid any confusion when you present it in court.

The role of social media in our society has exponentially grown in the past few years and continues to grow today. Even in the courtroom, social media makes for a formidable material, especially if it has been responsibly and effectively captured.