Dangers of Social Media
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have become the most common form of communication in the United Kingdom. However, over the last 5 years there has been a rise in social media being deployed as evidence to secure convictions in criminal courts.
How can social media evidence can be used in in a criminal case?
1. As direct evidence of a crime being committed and/ or
2. As circumstantial evidence from which guilt can be inferred.
What types of social media evidence can be used as Evidence?
1. Photographs or posts uploaded onto Snapchat or Instagram showing individuals committing a criminal offence or in possession of items used in criminal offences.
2. WhatsApp messages sent or received on digital devices in order to facilitate a criminal offence or from which offending can be inferred. The police often use this evidence in drugs supply and importation cases.
3. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts showing the location of an individual at a material date and time. Enabling the prosecution to identify whether an individual was or was not present at a specific location.
4. Facebook comments and posts tagging or linking on another individuals profile, thereby indirectly linking an individual to an alleged criminal offence.
5. A series of unwanted Facebook, Twitter, Whats App, text or email messages sent to another individual could be used a direct evidence to show that the sender has committed Harassment offences.
6. Linked In has been deployed to show business association between individuals.
How can you protect your Social Media?
1. Set your profile to the highest level of security;
2. Be cautious when posting your location or “tagging” into a specific location or place;
3. Remember that posts, uploads and comments can be still available even if respective accounts are no longer active;
4. Remember that uploads can be saved and all electronic devices enable screen shots to be taken of posts, uploads and comments; and
5. Log out of your accounts when not active.
It is crucial to be aware that before you upload any content onto social media you act responsibly by considering the contents with care and understanding that all posts become a matter of public record as soon as they are sent. Law enforcement agencies now have the resources and technology to access locked devices and retrieve deleted data, subject to the caveat that they can prove continuity this social media material can be deployed as evidence in criminal courts.