The use of social media has grown exponentially, offering a platform for social interactions, commerce, community building, networking, and more. Today, over 4.5 billion people use social media globally, allowing users to track their lives, connect with others, sell products online, etc.
This prevalence has turned social media into a trove of invaluable information that lawyers can use in litigations and investigations. For example, in 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice charged eight Brooklyn men with COVID-19 relief fraud after the investigation team used their social media pictures to prove the charges.
Evidently, the role of social media data in court litigation, investigative research, or business intelligence can’t be overstated. Lawyers can leverage the vast volume of social media data and insights to ensure successful cases.
Evidence of Communication
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram offer chat and video tools to allow users to communicate with each other. Users can also interact publicly in the comments section, and you can aggregate comments to show significant prejudice.
Interactions between two people on these platforms are admissible in court as evidence of communication. More importantly, these tools have timestamps, making it easy to know the exact date and time users interacted.
Note that you’ll need to investigate as early as possible to establish and preserve digital evidence of communication. It’s common for suspects or users involved in litigation to delete their profiles or change their settings, making it hard to access certain information.
Photos and Videos
Visual elements are worth 1000 words, and most social platforms thrive on photos and videos, which provide data points on individuals. Users share them as status updates or video streams. Regardless, visual content on social media can provide invaluable information for your case.
They can help you determine relationships among individuals, identify people, and verify other details like routine, perspective, abilities, types of outfits, physical health, etc. Some people also add a description of activity when sharing photos or videos, and this can be useful in an investigation.
For example, an employee files a workplace injury and receives compensation and disability benefits. However, a video on social media shows the employee dancing or engaging in activities that their “disability” wouldn’t allow them to — this is useful in building your case.
On social media sites like Facebook, users can share their relationship with a person, be it a relative, sibling, spouse, colleague, or friend. The frequency and details of interactions between users can also help lawyers establish the kind of relationship they have.
Social media features like tagging and open forums can help you determine the relationships among a group of users. This is helpful when documenting criminal activities, investigating a connection between suspects, or even tracking down an individual for service of process.
Photographic evidence, social media posts, and online profiles can help you connect the dots, especially when working on family or divorce cases. They can tell you a story about the life of a person, who they talk to, who they meet, and the activities they engage in.
When sharing posts or photos on social media, a user’s content is always complemented with metadata, which makes specific details public, including location, date, and time. With this information, it’s possible to determine the location of an individual on a particular day and time.
Social media also offers additional data points, including the company name, places lived, education years, graduation dates, and last post dates. This is essential when validating an alibi, proving charges, or creating a timeline of events.
You can also leverage deep web social search to find location information unavailable on the regular web. Avid criminals understand the basics of social media, so they’re likely to use the deep web to hide their tracks.
Gauge the State of Mind
When researching a case, publicly visible posts, photos, videos, connections, and personal information can tell much about an individual’s state of mind. It’s not uncommon for users to be too candid with what they share, especially when emotional or stressed.
Such online statements can show a declarant’s motive, design, plan, mental feeling, or pain, and this provides helpful information for building a case. Lawyers can easily connect certain actions to the social media posts of a suspect.
According to Federal Rule 803(3), lawyers can admit statements of intent shared by declarants on any online platform or other modes of communication like email. Remember that a victim’s statements on social media can also be valuable to your evidence.
Timelines are powerful when demonstrating connected events or activities of a suspect. Whenever a user shares anything on social media, the post includes metadata to show the posting date. If enabled, you can also see their location at the time of posting.
Users can sometimes share photos in public places, such as restaurants, hotels, tourist destinations, etc. They can also intentionally or unintentionally make their itineraries public, making it effortless for investigators to establish their timeline on a particular day.
In such cases, digital forensics can play a crucial role in uncovering their activities, connections, and whereabouts, which help verify an alibi or strengthen your case.
Harness the Power of Social Media Investigations
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) has become an indispensable tool for law firms to find vital information for litigation or intelligence. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter can provide reliable evidence to ensure a successful case, whether online infringement, divorce, workplace compensation, or insurance.
If you need help with social media evidence collection, you can work with a social media evidence collection and preservation company like SMI Aware to find the information you need. With a team of experienced analytics, we scour the web to find valuable and actionable evidence for our clients.
We leverage proprietary search technology to ensure accurate and court-admissible results while ensuring ethical standards, uniformity, compliance, and chain of custody. Additionally, we provide curated reports ready to use in your case to save you time.
Contact us today to learn how SMI Aware can collect, analyze, and preserve social media evidence and help you establish your case.