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Use of Facebook in Court as Evidence

Social MediaUse of Facebook in Court as Evidence

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently addressed the use of Facebook messages at trial in SMITH v. STATE, NO. 2012-CT-00218-SCT.

The question arose as to if the specific page was in fact posted by who the page said or fake. In the court’s words, was the particular page and its information ‘authentic’

The court noted that Facebook pages, like many social media sites, can be easily created by anyone, not necessarily the person or business on the page itself.  The court reasoned that a person seeking to use such pages must show something more than a name and a photograph from the page.

In this case, the State of Mississippi lacked sufficient support that the Facebook messages were in fact from the defendant. The State only had the defendants name on a Facebook page and a low-quality, grainy photograph with nothing else.  The court noted that the State didn’t use the page’s profile information, such as date of birth, interests, or page likes.
Importantly, the court noted that the State didn’t make a proper showing that the defendant actually made the post or entered the information.  Even if this was the defendant’s true account, the State would still need to show that someone else didn’t log into his account and post the information.  Again, the court noted that there was no evidence about the security of the particular account and if it were possible for a third-party to make the post or otherwise gain access.

In the end, however it didn’t matter.  While the Supreme Court found that the State shouldn’t have admitted the Facebook information, other evidence was enough to convict the defendant.

Here’s the full opinion.