There are a lot of stories lately about the way law enforcement is using social media to capture criminals. As might be expected, there’s a lot of dumb lawbreakers who are eager to incriminate themselves online. Apparently, a lot of small-time criminals just can’t help but brag about their illegal exploits on Facebook or Twitter.
However, there are going to be other criminals who know how to cover their tracks online. As much as some criminals unintentionally incriminate themselves on social media, other criminals are using social media for increasingly sophisticated schemes, especially for finding likely victims.
What About the Clever Crooks?
It’s easy enough to capture someone who posts pictures of themselves posing with stolen goods on Facebook. But when social media fraudsters are creating fake profiles, fabricating posts, and manipulating people via social media, law enforcement is going to have a harder time obtaining evidence that will stand up in court. For example, State v. Rossi was a sexual assault case involving social media evidence which, on appeal, turned on a failure to properly authenticate a blog post copied from Myspace. The Appeals Court noted that the defendant, “never made any effort to trace the blog post through Myspace in order to discover where the post originated.”
The bottom line is, any attempt to use social media in a law enforcement context must be complete, and must provide the foundation for forensic digital examination. As we’ve noted before, there are a number of important considerations to authenticate social media for presentation in court. Many cases have fallen apart because prosecutors present social media evidence in a convenient format, such as printed on paper. Only solutions that capture complete, forensically sound copies of evidence, including metadata, off-site links, and related content will stand up in court. Capturing dumb criminals is one thing; catching the crafty ones will take more effort.