Social media and technology impact our lives in more ways than we can imagine. There are broader applications to the user-generated content that we consume and produce on a daily basis beyond our everyday interactions with smartphones and social media. This content speaks volumes about our society, our priorities, our triggers, and our behavioral drivers; it has also been a successful tool for legal teams in litigation through the use of Forensic Media Psychology (FMP).
What is Forensic Media Psychology?
FMP is an extension of Forensic Psychology that utilizes rigorous research and systematic observations to “understand the mental constructs that provoke informed behavior” (T. T. Luskin, Luskin, B.J., 1998). This ground-breaking forensic field has emerged by combining media analysis, research, and psychology. Consequently, Forensic Media analysis focuses on understanding cognitive illusions and the effect of memory on associations and experiences. In other words, how our opinions and actions are impacted by what we see in the media.
Applications & Ethical Questions
Civil and criminal litigation cases have been the driving force behind the development of this type of analysis impacting court decisions in a growing number of cases. Recently there has been some discussion around the impact that continuous media coverage can have on juries and trials. Individuals are now able to effortlessly broadcast news reports from their cell phones which can lead to exposure of outside opinions and perspectives. This type of evidence can influence jurors opinions creating ethical concerns.
Social media is rapidly changing how people share information and express opinions which delivers evidence that needs to be appropriately captured in order for it to be admissible in a court of law. Analysis of social platforms presents ever-changing applications, links, techniques, and even roadblocks that are being discovered daily. While it was previously easier to extract digital evidence from structured platforms like public records and corroborate the findings through a third party, this is not the case with social media. Evidence posted online can easily be manipulated and altered as people update, delete, or lock down their privacy settings, which presents its own challenges and ethical questions.
When applied to Social Media, FMP provides a wealth of information that can be captured and analyzed to support or debunk legal strategies. Currently, FMP is primarily being used in civil and criminal litigation by offering an array of insights into social media users and how they think. Given the malleable nature of human perception and memory, hard evidence that can be found on social media cannot be ignored by litigators.
While its applications to the analysis of social media are still emerging, we have seen the impact of Forensic Media Psychology in other areas of law. Given that social media usage is only Increasing, it is more important than ever to have trained professionals who are able to correctly identify subjects, facts, and other details related to a person’s background and activities.
FMP’s highly applicable nature and flexibility yield countless results which can also be applied to cases such as:
- Worker’s Compensation
- Risk Assessment
- Theft of Intellectual Property
- Crowd Behavior
- Vehicle Accidents
- Criminal Activity
Forensics Applied by SMI Aware Experts
While most people are accustomed to thinking of social media evidence in a more traditional way, like damning images, videos, and even statements posted on social media, there are many layers of data that can be extracted from these platforms. At SMI Aware, FMP helps our certified social media analysts understand cognitive bias through the analysis of social media profiles, posts, and connections.
Additionally, this methodology is broadly used by our in-house analysts to evaluate the content of social media posts, comments, and narratives written by subjects; from this analysis we can evaluate writing styles, language patterns, and overall context to draw conclusions about authorship and identify connections between a subject and their potential aliases.
Social media research & analysis and Forensic Media Psychology are remarkably complex topics. It is up to trained intelligence professionals to take on the role of the “social media eyewitnesses” who can observe, capture, and preserve digital evidence in compliance with current laws and regulations. It is also necessary to have the technical ability, analytical skills, ethical understanding, and legal comprehension to gather pertinent and admissible evidence.
Considering the rapid growth and constant shifting nature of social media, FMP and social media analysis are necessary tools for litigators. SMI Aware has a fully CSMIE certified team of in-house analysts prepared to provide detailed analysis through our Deep Reports as well capturing and preserving said data through our Exports. Let our SMI Aware professionals be your social media eyewitnesses.