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How can social media evidence become unreliable?

As a defendant in the internet age, you need to understand the impact social media has on a criminal case. A plaintiff can offer emails as evidence and a prosecutor can scour your public profile for information. 

According to the National Law Review, as the courts welcome social media as evidence, it poses new challenges. The Federal Rules of Evidence states that evidence has to support the finding  

Standards for internet evidence

Unlike other forms of evidence, internet evidence is vulnerable to forgery and alteration. However, the courts hold it to a similar standard as voicemails and letters. It has to appear genuine as a first impression. 

Some courts disagree on how to satisfy that the evidence is authentic. Some courts set a higher bar, where the prosecution has to eliminate the possibility of faked posts. Others set a lower bar, where if a reasonable juror could believe the posts or accounts belong to the defendant, then the prosecution can admit it. Sometimes, it is up to the defense to prepare if the court sets a lower bar on internet information. 

Authentication of internet evidence

To disprove authenticity, you may need witnesses with personal knowledge about your communication habits. For example, an account may not have a consistent name or consistent tone. Geolocation data associated with the accounts and posts can also persuade a jury whether or not the post could come from you. 

For the courts to have access to your social media or other internet activities, you have to have your information public or they must obtain the information from someone who legally can access your posts.