Are your tweets court-ready?

by Chirag Verma on July 15, 2015

What’s in a tweet? Recent cases have shown that social media posts carry more weight in court than one might suspect. It’s not only individuals that need to worry about what they post online -- companies and agencies are held accountable for their social media activity too. As digital content rises in legal importance, organizations must take notice.

If you had to produce records of your company’s tweets between certain dates, or your Facebook posts on a certain topic, would you be able to do it? And if you could, are you certain they would be accepted as evidence in court?

You CAN be assured that your tweets are court-ready if you follow a few simple guidelines:

Daily capture.

Don’t miss a thing! Make sure your company employs a retention solution that captures your social media content at least daily. Lost tweets or comments are potentially lost evidence -- which could lead to charges of spoliation. The transient and real-time nature of social media does not release companies from the responsibility of preserving it. As recently noted in an article from Martindale-Hubbell:

“Recent jurisprudence is clear: social media information is potentially both relevant and discoverable.”

Proof of data integrity and authenticity.

What if you are required to produce social media records for a court case? How can you be sure the data will be accepted as authentic? CNN reports:

“Legal experts say photos and videos . . . must be authenticated, meaning the prosecutors must prove the images are what they seem and have not been altered or staged. And they can't be shown out of context.”

This certainly applies to digital evidence in the form of social media posts and any associated content. It’s a modern-day application of Rule 901 in the Federal Rules of Evidence. If digital files are presented in court, the presenter must prove that the files were online at the time alleged, and that they haven’t been altered. This is called “proof of data integrity and authenticity”.

For digital content, the golden standard for proving data authenticity is a digital timestamp and signature. Your chosen solution for preserving web content should provide these “digital fingerprints” if you want your archives to stand as evidence in court.

Secure, searchable storage.

It goes without saying that your social media files should be preserved securely. You want to ensure the safety of personally identifiable information and other sensitive information. In addition, it’s helpful if your archives are searchable. In the event of ediscovery, regulatory request for information, or your own company analytics, having searchable social media files will simplify and accelerate the process -- saving time and money.

Don’t assume your social media content is private or irrelevant -- recent cases have proven the opposite. But companies and agencies can continue to engage successfully online, as long as they preserve their social media records as faithfully as they would their traditional records.


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