Can social media records be used as evidence in court? What about Freedom of Information (FOI) requests? Social media has become an indispensable form of communication, not just in our personal lives but for government and businesses too. So it’s unsurprising that it can be submitted in legal proceedings. We explore the five key factors determining whether a social media record is admissible.
Can a social media record be considered evidence?
Generally, yes. Social media content has been and can be used as evidence in Australian courts.
But its legitimacy as evidence is up for debate. While the limitations of its use vary between states, it can be an essential part of ‘discovery’.
Consider this – legal proceedings are underway with someone claiming they sustained injuries at a place of business, then photos of them exercising and continuing normal daily activities are found on social media.
Transparency and context are crucial for FOI requests or evidence.
What does a social media record need to be considered evidence?
It comes down to a single word – credibility.
What then makes a social media record admissible as evidence?
Here are the five key factors:
1. Is it genuine?
The authenticity of the record is essential.
- User identification: do you have the username and other identifying information?
- Timestamps: when was it created, edited or deleted?
- Metadata: do you have the IP address, device and location information?
- Capture method: is it a screenshot or from a web archive? The capture method is important for establishing legitimacy.
2. Is it accurate?
This is about the chain of custody.
- Record management: has the record been tampered with?
- Verification: who has handled this record? Human interaction lends itself to human error. Using an automated archiving tool helps ensure record verification.
3. Is it relevant?
The records should relate to the matter in question. If the content is relevant, it is admissible.
- Record compilation: you want to paint a comprehensive picture of the event, but irrelevant information could dilute its significance.
- Corroboration: it could be use as corroborative evidence, challenging or supporting the credibility of a witness. The relevancy of social media records evidence can be crucial to the outcome of a case.
4. Is it complete?
Contextual information is key. Make sure the record can be effectively interpreted and understood.
- Source: different platforms have different features, so disclose if Facebook or LinkedIn, for example, was used.
- Privacy settings: disclose any restricted access to profiles or posts to avoid misinterpretation.
- Conversations: have you captured the entire thread of a post or private message to ensure accurate interpretation and analysis?
5. Is the original form and structure retained?
Reading a private message in PDF format can differ from the actual content exchanged. Do you have a secure record of your interactions with customers and the community?
- Data retention: all media (videos, images, GIFs) and changes to the record must be captured.
- Backup: is the record stored safely? You need to respect privacy laws when collecting social media records.
Social media records must have an adequate level of reliability, making collecting and preserving the record very important. Social media can act in your favour, or against it. So cover yourself – use a reliable archiving tool to ensure credibility.
A social media archiving solution helps you achieve this. For example, Brolly is a secure software that creates compliant, legally admissible historical records of your social media communications.
All records captured by Brolly are verified with a digital signature, so you know it has been correctly captured. Whether it’s a post, comment, reply, media, or linked website, the complete conversation (along with the associated metadata) is captured, ensuring you will always have a true and verifiable record to present as evidence or as part of an FOI.