Want to know about the impact of social media records on criminal cases investigation? Keep reading!
Over the last two decades, the growing use of social networking sites has fundamentally changed how we interact, behave, communicate, and think.
Not only has it changed the way our society works, but also transformed the way our legal system works.
Social media has become an integral part of the litigation process.
And according to H. Michael, even 90% of police departments use social media platforms as an investigating tool in cases.
Also, law enforcement agencies have been increasing their focus on collecting evidence from social media networks.
Legal professionals, especially criminal defense lawyers, are using the social media records of the clients and other parties to collect evidence and provide competent and diligent representation to their clients.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the significance of social media forensics and what role social media records play in the investigation of criminal cases. Let’s get started!
Ever Heard of social media Forensics?
Social media forensics is the process of collecting, analyzing, and storing information, photos, videos, and other electronic evidence from the social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and others for tracking criminals.
The reason why legal professionals use social media records is that the information posted on these platforms is stored on the cloud and can be accessed anytime when there is a lack of evidence or witness to prove a crime.
Role of Social Media Platforms in Criminal Cases Investigation
Social media records can be used as electronic evidence during criminal investigations and are acceptable as evidence in some cases.
For example, there have been many cases where social media evidence such as photos, messages, stories, and videos relevant to the case were presented in the court to be used in the litigation.
Social media records can play a critical role in old cases, such as assisting police with unidentified and missing person cases.
In 2015, a woman was found dead on the side of the road in Saskatoon, Canada, with a belt near her body.
There was not enough evidence to catch the killer, and the case remained unsolved.
Three years later, police convicted Cheyenne Rose Antoin of her murder based on his photo posted on the Victim’s Facebook on the night of her death in which he was wearing the same belt found next to the victim’s body.
The virtual records of social networking sites can be used to prove a certain activity or cross-check a witness’s testimony to ensure a fair trial.
Even if it can’t be used as evidence, lawyers use it to indicate the mindset of the plaintiff or defendant, which can open the gates to collecting solid evidence that can have a huge impact on the case.
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Growth of Social Media & Its Effect on Social Media Forensics
As per a report shared by Congressional Research Service in 2021, 70% of people used social media as compared to only 5% in the year 2005.
The increase in popularity of social media has attracted people of all ages globally, and today, so many people actively post on social media.
Because of the amount of personal data and information that can be found online on people’s social media accounts, police have also started using it in their investigations.
When & How Do Investigators Use Social Media?
There have been so many instances where investigators were able to provide evidence in courts for a variety of cases, including sexual assaults, murders, weapon possessions, threats, etc.
There is no thumb of rule as to when investigators use social media. They do not have access to it beyond a user’s privacy settings.
The best way, however, to use it in an investigation is to use it as soon as possible. This eliminates the possibility of removal or destruction of potential evidence.
What Tools are Used to Collect Evidence from Social Media Platforms?
The integrity and authenticity of the social media records can be questioned in court if not recorded properly.
Here are some tools used by criminal investigators to collect and analyze social media records more efficiently:
- Manually checking social media accounts pages
- Printing or taking screenshots
- Downloading files
- Using software or other open-source programs
- Subpoenaing or using a court order for the production of information
How is Social Media Forensics Conducted?
Law enforcement needs to comply with the laws governing the use of social media in investigations.
Based on different jurisdictions, a law enforcement agency might need to obtain a warrant from the social media platform if they want to investigate a person’s private profile.
This may not be easy, as social medial platforms are strict when it comes to user privacy.
And also, different platforms have different policies, which may impact law enforcement’s social media forensics investigation.
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So social media has proven quite useful in obtaining evidence and finding criminals. However, there is a limit on how one can utilize it.
We hope you found this article on the impact of social media records on criminal cases investigation useful.
Can one use social media posts as evidence in the court?
Yes, if there is something on someone’s social media profile that proves their crime, then yes, it can be used as evidence in court.
How can social media be used in criminal law cases?
Social media can be utilized by lawyers or investigators to collect proof or to prove a crime.
Investigators often use private messages or social media posts in criminal law cases.
How can social media affect police negatively?
There is not enough clarity in regard to how and to what extent an investigator can use social media to prove crimes.
There have been instances where misconduct on social media, free-speech among rank-and-file officers, etc., has led many officers to lose their job.
Shefali Jain is a Content Writer & Editor at USWorkforce.org
After completing her graduation in hospitality, Shefali decided to follow her passion and started writing. Shefali has been writing for two years now and contributes to our website as a skilled editor and content writer with strong research skills. Writing product and service reviews, biographies, and book reviews are some of her key areas, among many others in which she specializes. In her time at the organization, she has written and edited content on a range of topics, including employment law, human resources, and business management.
The US Workforce has a policy of producing high-quality content that follows industry standards by using primary sources, such as white papers and government data, alongside original reporting from reputable publishers. We also follow an editorial style where appropriate information about the topic can be found with due credit given when applicable.