Social Media Evidence – MySpace

Griffin v Maryland [2011]

A History of Social Media Evidence - MySpace Content

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The case was one of the first landmark cases to address the admissibility of social media evidence in trials, in the form of a MySpace printout.

In this murder trial, the defendant’s girlfriend (Jessica Barber) had threatened the witness before the first trial. In connection with this argument, the prosecution offered Ms. Barber’s MySpace profile page as evidence. Barber demanded authentication of the MySpace evidence, and a Police officer testified he visited the website on Dec 2006, attempting to testify the authenticity of the witness' photo and birthdate.

The trial court admitted the printout of the MySpace page into evidence, and held that the profile could be “circumstantially authenticated”, but the jury was to determine if the printout depicted the MySpace page of the witness. The State’s highest court disagreed; finding that the printout was not properly authenticated and remanded a new trial.

The possibility for user abuse exists on all forms of social media, as illustrated by United States v. Drew, 259 F.R.D. 449 (D. C.D. Cal. 2009), in which Lori Drew, was prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act  for creating a MySpace profile for a fictitious 16-year old male named ‘Josh Evans.’  The court looked to other cases with a pattern of finding the potential for abuse with respect to social network-based evidence, and found that such digital content requires a higher standard of scrutiny for authentication. (see Commonwealth v. Williams; “a message was from an individual’s Web page was not sufficient to authenticate that the individual wrote the message. Evidence of additional confirming circumstances is needed to authenticate the message.”).

The court found that there was significant and likely potential for fabricating, editing, deleting or tampering with ESI on a social media platform, posing significant challenges to the authentication of mere printouts, as in Maryland v. Griffin. In a forward thinking contrast, two dissenting judges accused the majority of having “technological heebie-jeebies,” and were of the opinion that the integral question is whether a “reasonable juror” could conclude that the evidence in question was authentic, unless the court concludes that “no reasonable juror” could find the evidence authentic.

The Role of WebPreserver

Though caselaw and technology itself has grown since Griffin v. Maryland, many of the underlying values and principles addressed in this case remain today; namely the inadmissibility of mere printouts from social media websites. The courts expectation that ESI and social media content are produced with additional circumstantial evidence for authentication purposes is the most dynamic example of this.

It is for that purpose and standard of admissibility that WebPreserver was created; our technology not only captures screenshots of social media and online content in a cost-effective, efficient one click process, creates evidentiary standard documents, but we also provide the additional circumstantial evidence of an automated digital time-stamp and verified e-signature in line with the E-Sign Act and Federal Rules of Evidence. A Metadata format of your Snapshot is also stored for additional compliance measures.

Snapshots are instantly created, easily downloaded,  archived and organised. Additional resources include the ability to create and share personal files on our online platform-  perfect for efficient sharing with clients and colleagues and easily organised with keyword tagging options.

Ensure that your evidence submitted during Discovery is always discoverable, reliable and admissible by utilising WebPreserver as a cost and time effective eDiscovery and archiving tool.

 

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general and informative purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. Content on this blog is not intended to substitute the advice of a licensed attorney, as laws are subject to change and vary with time, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Content on this blog may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.
Social Media Discovery Blog Social Media Case Law - Admissibility of Online Evidence

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