Social Media and Collecting Evidence in a Digital Age
These days it seems much of our communication is carried out online, whether it be through text messaging, tweeting, Facebook or other social networks. We use these online services to stay connected, to post about our lives, concerns or beliefs. The online experience can have a negative impact on us, or it might be beneficial.
Investigations by employers, police or lawyers into a person’s social media have become increasingly routine, gathering evidence to build a case, or provide an alibi. There are many situations where researching a person’s online persona can be useful in a legal situation.
Here are a few situations social media investigation can be utilized
Evidence in a Defamation Case
They say any publicity is good publicity but what if the statements are untrue and they damage you or your company’s reputation? Some people feel empowered by the computer and make comments they would not say face to face, but do you know you may be charged with defamation for posting false remarks on social media? People may feel that social media sites like Facebook are a safe place to post their rants, whether fact or fiction but commenters can be held liable for false statements. Companies and individuals may seek damages due to disparaging comments made online. For instance, a woman from Merida was found guilty of defamation after making disparaging remarks about a local business on Facebook. In this case, the commenter agreed to a 2,000 pesos fine and issue an online apology, however, if the commenter had not settled, the case would have gone to trial and sentencing could range from three days to two years jail time and a fine up to 200 days of minimum wage.
Personal Injury Case
In the case of a personal injury, the insurance company or defendant’s lawyer will investigate the alleged victim to try to find evidence that the injury has not affected their lives. For instance, the victim may claim they can not walk, yet Facebook depicts photos of the victim on a recent ski trip. They may claim emotional trauma, claiming they are not able to work yet instagram and twitter messages place them on tropical vacation having a fabulous time. If the defendant’s lawyer can find evidence of a past injury, they may claim the old injury is affecting their recovery and negatively impact the current claim.
The police will use social media to place someone at the scene of a crime, find connections with known criminals or even possession of stolen merchandise. Messages and photos can be very damaging to a novice criminal who brags on social media about their recent illegal accomplishments. On the other hand, social media may provide an alibi or witness for the innocent as metadata attached to posts will provide the date, time and location. In this case, social media may save your life.
These days a resume is not sufficient when it comes to determining whether a new hire is suitable for your company. Some companies will perform a social media investigation to determine how a potential employee conducts themselves and ensure their views match those of the company. They search for inappropriate comments or posts, checking whether their online profile includes racist or sexist remarks and jokes. Although they say Facebook is not real life, it does provide an insight into someone’s character, what they believe in and what they stand for – good or bad. If you are looking for employment make sure your online persona is the one you want them to know. Many people have lost their jobs for inappropriate social media posts.
Divorce and Custody Cases
Although infidelity may not be enough to win a divorce or custody trial, it does establish some doubts on the adulterers’ moral character. Social media investigators can provide evidence of interactions, linking people together by time and place.
If you are involved in a child custody case, your ex’s lawyer will surely investigate your social life, your acquaintances, and activities. Social media can provide evidence of interaction, care or lack of consideration of the children.