At one point in time, the majority of written information used as evidence in a court case was gathered from public records and other readily-available documents. Today, this is not the case. The rise of social media has added layers of complexity to the legal system, including the fact that content derived from social media can now be used as evidence in court. Do you have the social knowledge to be a successful litigator?
In order to gather as much web evidence possible, it is important to be proactive. As discussed in a previous post, waiting too long to start this process could cost you the case. There is certainly no shortage of opportunity to find valuable information in the e-discovery process, as 71% of the total population of the United States is currently an active social media user, according to a report done by We Are Social. This equates to about 230 million users in the US alone, and the total number of users worldwide has increased by 13% in the past year.
Platforms and Their General Purposes
Last week’s post talked about how Facebook’s most active users have shifted from college students to adults over the age of 50. This is in part due to privacy concerns and younger generations’ desire to connect on a more intimate level without distracting content such as articles and video advertisements taking up feed space. From a legal standpoint, this presents an opportunity to gather information on older subjects. Even if the subjects themselves do not have profiles, you would be surprised to see how much pertinent information can be extracted from the profiles of family members and friends.
Though Twitter has a wide spread of age and demographics, the majority of users opt to keep their profiles public in order to easily retweet and like posts. This facilitates the e-discovery process, as AI software is more easily able to detect and confirm links to a subject based on public information.
A favorite among millennial and Generation Z, 59% of US Instagram users are between 18 and 29 years old. In terms of privacy settings, the general trend indicates that there is about an even split between public and private accounts. Instagram users often add their location and tag friends, restaurants and brands to Instagram posts. In this regard, Instagram is a much more personal social media platform, and the variety of tags adds more complex connections and different sources to investigate in the e-discovery process.
Mainly used for professional networking, LinkedIn is becoming more popular among younger generations seeking to connect with older colleagues and obtain career advice. One of the benefits of LinkedIn is being able to share anecdotes and tips related to the working world, and users of all age are open to engagement by way of commenting and liking.
Most LinkedIn users have private accounts that require an invitation to connect, but the majority of users do allow their profiles to be shown in search results that includes their name, photo, and title. When conducting research on a subject or associated persons, it is also important to remember that LinkedIn alerts users when someone has viewed their profile. More information on that topic can be found here.
How This Affects Litigation
Legal professionals seeking to obtain information online must understand the norms and trends associated with each of the social media platforms. With users becoming more savvy and aware of the risks associated with putting sensitive information online, it is becoming more challenging to collect relevant information for a case in a timely and ethical fashion.
SMI Aware is in the business of not only analyzing social media profiles and all of the intricacies that comes with social network connections, but also staying on top of social media’s continuous changes. Knowing the important updates, and knowing how those updates affect the user and their interactions, will ensure that we are advising you correctly and compiling the material you need.