Can You Use Social Media Data as Evidence in Court?

As people say, think before you click. This can pertain to the things you say and post online. You can end up hurting somebody’s feelings or you can add fuel to online feuds. Indiscriminate posting can also lead to sharing false information.

Thanks to social media and text archiving services, all of this data left online can now be used as evidence for or against you in court.

Social Media as Evidence

Social media has provided enough evidence for thousands of different cases. It has helped in criminal, family law, employment, and personal injury cases.

A party involved in the case can find potential evidence from social media through a patient online search. This may include text posts, photos, and videos. Authorities will check the data and decide whether it can be used in the case. Once it is deemed admissible in court as possible evidence, it will then be preserved as required by the law.

How is Social Media Evidence Preserved?

All and any evidence for the case should be preserved. Social media data and text messages will be included in litigation-hold notices. Once issued, the parties involved will then be given several ways to protect social media data.

Text Messages

Cellphone

It is possible to retain access to the messages even if the owner deletes it through text archiving services. In some cases, employers are required to acquire this service if they provide any gadgets to their employees for official business use.

Archived text messages can help companies protect themselves against false claims. The conversations archived on the phone will be checked and can be submitted as evidence if necessary.

Facebook

Facebook has a feature that allows you to archive and download information from personal accounts. Everything can be saved in a ZIP file that the court can refer to during the litigation.

The “Download Your Info” feature can be found within the app’s settings. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen, the site will gather every post, photos, conversations, reactions, and ads you’ve checked, as well as the IP addresses you’ve used.

Twitter

Twitter also has a similar feature that archives every tweet posted, along with photos and videos, and download it afterward. The difference with Facebook is that the website can’t archive other information like IP logs and ad clicks.

However, it is still possible to gain the information straight from Twitter itself. Sending a formal e-mail tends to do the trick.

What Happens if You Fail to Preserve Your Data?

Failure to preserve data and other evidence can lead to significant punishments. In the worst-case scenario, you and your counsel will be subject to sanctions.

There has been a case wherein the lawyer instructed his client to clean up his Facebook, resulting in the client deactivating his account and deleting photos that may adversely impact their case. The court has decided that they were both subject to sanctions due to their misconduct.

It is futile to try and hide online information by simply deleting social media accounts as forensic experts can still find ways to have them recovered. It will only further paint you in a negative light.

Social media is a big part of our lives and society. How we use it can either be to our benefit or our detriment. Always be mindful with your online actions and the data you leave behind as you never know how it may be used.

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