Twitter, the 140 character social media messaging service, turned 10 yesterday. In just a few short years, Twitter has become a household name, and is one of the first places on the Internet to check for breaking news.
Many people tweet, and a lot of those tweets are rather candid in nature. This should make tweets a prime source for litigation-rich content. However, very few matters include twitter content as part of the evidentiary record. That is likely due to the technical complexity of twitter as evidence.
Collecting twitter messages is like trying to solve a really frustrating cold case. In order to make use of twitter content, the legal team needs to be able to assemble the last days in the life of a tweet. Where did that tweet go, who did it meet, and who was the last person to see it? This is because original posts and tweets often “disappear” from the poster’s feed, while retweets and repostings may be scattered throughout the Internet. The relevant information may be there, but being able to piece together a story for a judge, jury, or regulator based on a collection of piecemeal tweets may be difficult.
The key to making the authentication process work is in the details hidden in every social media post – usually in the form of metadata. This means that simple screen shots of tweets, which capture none of the metadata, are insufficient – forensic collection and reconstruction techniques must be used.
Twitter can be a gold-mine to those legal teams that are tech-savvy enough to understand how to use them. Nowadays, legal knowledge is not enough. The legal team needs to include the technical expertise to take advantage of 21st century methods of communication.
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