Once just the province of Generation Y and high tech culture, it is not breaking news that social media is now as mainstream as . . . well . . . the internet. What is new is that social media issues are no longer just an interesting specialty niche for tech savvy lawyers, but something that likely touches most attorneys' practices.
A look at the rapid rise of appellate level cases involving social media evidence gives a hint at just how common social media evidence is becoming in civil litigation and criminal prosecution. The chart accompanying this post, while not a definitive study, shows the results of a Westlaw search for the number of appellate cases that likely involved the admission of evidence related to the major social media outlets -- increasing 8-fold since 2008 and doubling in the past two years.
In separate research, eDiscovery firm "X1 Discovery" recently reported finding 674 appellate cases in 2010-2011 that mentioned social media evidence. With that many cases involving social media evidence at the appellate level, it is not unreasonable to conclude that social media evidence must be seen frequently by the lower courts.
Whether it is understanding how to authenticate a Tweet during trial, or avoiding a career-ending discovery sanction for spoliation of Facebook evidence, there is a growing need for litigators and other attorneys to understand the implications of social media for clients.
In issue 13.1 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Professor Ira P. Robbins of American University's Washington College of Law outlines the challenges involved in authenticating social media evidence and proposes an authorship-centric approach to the authentication of such evidence. Read "Writings on the Wall: The Need for an Authorship-Centric Approach to the Authentication of Social-Networking Evidence"