The answer is yes. Public and private social media content, whether posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media platform, can be used as admissible evidence in a court of law.
How to go about gathering and using this evidence is the real question. Here are six recommended best practices for using social media content as evidence:
#1: Gather ALL of the content
A single Facebook post may be all you think you need to use as evidence, but capturing the entire Facebook profile will be to your benefit. This includes all sections of the profile, posts and comments. It’s a good idea to have the entire profile documented to not only provide full context, but also in the event that the content gets deleted.
#2: Know the platform
Social media platforms change constantly, and if you’re not up on the layout or new content, you may miss some very relevant content to your case. Be aware of new updates to platforms, tabs, expandable comment sections, or any other content that may not be visible right away. If you don’t have the knowledge of these platforms, find an expert who does, because evidence may be hiding.
#3: Collect important metadata
Even if you think you may not need it, gather all metadata linked with the content for legitimacy. This includes anything like IP addresses, timestamps, URLs and more.
#4 Remove yourself from the chain of custody
Look into web collection technology that serve as a trusted third-party. This will remove you and your staff from the chain of custody. By using a trusted third-party to collect data, you are ensuring that you and your staff will not become unnecessarily involved in a case.
#5: Get an affidavit to support your case
Cover your bases and make sure to procure an affidavit so you can verify the authenticity of the web
#6: Document Content Accurately
When capturing web content, make sure to keep it in its true and original form to avoid any confusion if and when presented in court.
These best practices need to be followed when using social media content as evidence. If an attorney is not able to follow these steps, find a web collection service that will assist in gathering the information needed.