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Authentication of Social Media Evidence

March 19, 2018
Brooke Hanley
Posted in: Intellectual Property & Technology

How is social media evidence authenticated? In a March 15, 2018 opinion in Commonwealth v. Tyler Kristian Mangel and Matthew Robert Craft, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed this issue of first impression.

The Craft case dealt with the authentication of screenshots from various Facebook posts and messages. The Court looked to past cases dealing with the admissibility of electronic communications, recognizing Commonwealth v. Koch, 39 A.3d 996 (Pa. Super. 2011) as the controlling legal precedent in Pennsylvania for authentication of electronic communications.

The Koch Court addressed the authentication of cell phone text messages, noting the difficulty in establishing authorship of a text message or email. In Koch, the Court held that authentication of electronic communications requires more than confirmation that a number or address belongs to a particular person – circumstantial evidence is also required. 39 A.3d at 1005.

In Craft, the Court concluded that the authentication of social media evidence is to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether there is an adequate foundation of relevance and authenticity. Further, the party seeking to introduce social media evidence must present direct or circumstantial evidence corroborating the author’s identity, such as testimony from the sender or receiver of the communication or contextual clues revealing the identity of the sender.

The full Craft opinion can be found here: https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/superior-court/2018/703-wda-2017.html