Export Use Cases
Want to know when to preserve content from the internet? Check out the Export™ Use Cases below to learn how saving offline versions of web pages can be critical to your investigations.
1. Preserve Evidence
Capturing public social media evidence before it’s taken down or made private is the fastest and easiest way to ensure that you can use that evidence in court. Examples of content our customers have asked us to preserve include:
- Photos of disability claimants scuba diving, dancing or participating in other strenuous activities
- Tweets and wall posts written about current legal proceedings
- Instagram photos that show a subject cheating on his or her spouse
- Facebook comments that exemplify racist opinions
- Facebook posts that indicate drug or alcohol abuse and reckless behavior
Evidence like this can make or break a case, but it is often only available for a short window of time. It’s important to order an SMI Export or save content through your own means as early as possible, before a subject takes steps to deactivate their accounts or hide relevant posts and photos from public view. Just last week, SMI Exported a 1,200 page Facebook profile only a day before all content was made private.
Once a subject removes something from social media, there’s usually nothing SMI can do to recover the post; it generally takes a court order or very cooperative opposing counsel to get the evidence at that point. If the content you want was on Facebook (which is frequently the case), you will likely have a difficult time getting Facebook to hand over the information if you’re not law enforcement.
While Exports only contain public information, relevant public posts can be used to subpoena a subject’s private content. In Tompkins v. Detroit Metro. Airport, the judge ruled that in order to access private Facebook information:
There must be a threshold showing that the requested information is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Otherwise, the Defendant would be allowed to engaged in the proverbial fishing expedition, in the hope that there might be something of relevance in Plaintiff’s Facebook account.
Tip: If you are looking to subpoena private or deleted social media information, check out this Social Media Subpoena Guide.
2. Analyze Large Social Media Accounts
Anyone who’s tried to analyze a massive Facebook account knows the monotony of endlessly scrolling and repeatedly clicking “view more comments.” Our largest Export to date was more than 2,200 pages; a paralegal or investigator trying to do it themselves would likely have spent several full days sorting through and capturing everything on that Facebook timeline.
SMI’s Exports do all of that work for you – you submit a URL and SMI produces a fully searchable, hyperlinked PDF that allows you to delve deeply into a subject’s timeline and highlight everything that’s relevant.
Because it’s hyperlinked, as long as you are connected to the internet you can click links in the PDF and open them in your browser. This is helpful when you’re trying to continue research on the subject’s friends’ profiles, linked videos, group pages, liked businesses, etc.
Tip: If you know what you’re looking for, tell us when you order an Export so we can highlight incriminating posts and photos.
3. Understand Your Clients
Another use case is to run an Export on your own client’s social media. Clients don’t always understand their privacy settings or realize that certain social media posts could affect their cases. Running an export on your client’s social media accounts can help you better advise them about how to handle their public online presence and detect weaknesses in the case.
Exports can also be used to show your side of the case in a positive light. One of SMI’s customers used an Export to print the Facebook timeline of a mother and athlete who had been killed by a drunk driver. The attorney later called to say he had successfully used the Export in court to prove to jurors that the woman had led a full and happy life and would be dearly missed by many of her friends and family.
Tip: Remember to be careful when advising clients to hide posts or deactivate social media accounts – spoliation of social media evidence can result in sanctions.
4. Prepare Documents for Court
Exports can give you visually appealing documents to take to court. Even if the content is not at risk of disappearing, Exports can still make it easier for you to turn a website into a document that can be printed and shared. For example, business reviews from sites like Yelp are not generally at risk of disappearing, but they can be difficult to print. SMI’s technical team will work to make Exports look as much like the original website as possible.
Exports can also be used to help print your client’s content. Facebook gives you the option to download your own content, but this results in a zip file of multiple poorly formatted html files that are not hyperlinked and are not easy to read or print. These files also do not indicate whether or not a post is private or public.
5. Monitor Ongoing Cases
Although most subjects eventually realize that social media can be detrimental to their cases, SMI has found that some people figure this out more quickly than others.
Social media habits can be hard to break, and monitoring is most appropriate when subjects have a history of posting personal details to social media multiple times per week. Recently SMI found that a woman in the middle of a disability case has continued to post public status updates about her health and results from her doctor’s visits.
Monitoring is also recommended for cases in which a subject has received a court order related to social media. In one high profile, case a subject was court ordered not to delete posts from her social media accounts. Even though the subject’s accounts were set to private, we were able to compare the numbers of tweets and Instagram posts from week to week to show that she had deleted content.