A social media site like Twitter allows users to connect with friends, family, followers and fans through short messages limited to 140 characters called “tweets.” How and when those messages might be used as evidence in court is an evolving legal issue. Technology is expanding more rapidly than legal rules of evidence. Thus, judges look to long established rules of evidence when assessing the admissibility of a social media post. One of those rules is Florida Statute 90.901.
Florida Statute 90.901
This rule states that an item must be authenticated before it’s allowed into evidence. A proper foundation is required to support something’s authenticity. A Twitter post might be admissible in court if it’s properly authenticated.
The Authentication Process
Admission of a Twitter post into evidence turns on the issue of authenticity. Central to the authentication issue are false identities on the internet and hacking. Not all posts on a social media site are made by the actual user of that account. Hacking does occur, and the alleged declarant might challenge authenticity by saying their account was hacked.
Why Personal Knowledge Matters
If somebody admits that they made a Twitter entry, they have personal knowledge of the matter in question. They’ve authenticated it. If somebody denies making the post in question, courts generally won’t admit it into evidence unless others have personal knowledge of that person making the post.
Distinctive Characteristics Can Authenticate a Tweet
The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled that something’s “appearance, contents, substance and internal patterns” are distinctive characteristics. For instance, distinctive characteristics can include a serial number on a gun or a barcode on a product. Distinctive characteristics can guide a court in its decision on whether to authenticate a “tweet.”
Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. for Legal Representation
Courts are generally reluctant to offer a Twitter post into evidence because there’s significant potential for abuse and manipulation of any social networking site. There has to be satisfactory evidence of who created and published the post before it’s admitted into evidence. If that’s established, a social media post can be used against you in a civil or criminal case. Call Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins at (727) 478-4125 for a free consultation, or use our online contact form.