Social media is full of both misinformation and information, and law enforcement officials are using this data in new ways. Because there are so few laws governing what social media evidence police can use against someone in a criminal case, it is important that anyone in a criminal case be aware that what they post online matters.
Although social media content is more valuable to police than ever before, the American Sociological Association states that many victim advocates and social justice organizations have concerns that this negatively affects those who are already at additional risk in criminal cases.
Social medial evidence used in gang cases and sexual assault cases
In gang cases, social media is often used to demonstrate how one individual connects to another. Along with these connections, prosecutors can also determine if any content indicates the commission of a crime or the conspiracy to commit one, particularly in cases where gun violence was an issue.
Social media evidence is also used in sexual assault cases. One problem some experts see in these situations is when a victim is dishonest about their age on social media. Judges were occasionally sensitive to perpetrators after the alleged victim misled them about their age online
Concerns from public defenders
Public defenders often feel as if technology companies favor law enforcement agencies and prosecutors when it comes to providing access to social media evidence. This leads to a gap in technology availability, as companies are not required to work with public defenders when it comes to providing social media evidence.
While social media evidence can be valuable, most agree that there are not enough guidelines or rules in place for what information is accessible and what is not, and the issue deserves more attention and research.