The Top 2018 Social Media Authentication Cases

U.S. v. Farrad : U.S. Ct. App. 6th Cir. (2018): In which the defendant put forth the “photoshop theory,” that social media evidence offered against him had been digitally altered. After reviewing analogous cases from inside this circuit and persuasive authority from other circuits, we conclude that the district court was correct to admit the photos, but that it should have done so under a more traditional standard: regular authentication under Rule 901. The court concluded that while it was an error for the district court to deem the photographs self-authenticating business records, that error was harmless because admission was proper under Rule 901(a) regardless.

Commonwealth v. Mangel , (131 A.3d 1154 (2018): Merely presenting evidence that the posts and messages came from a social media account bearing the defendant’s name was not enough to allow the evidence in.

Schaffer v. State , (Supreme Court of Delaware (2018): Video evidence from Snapchat was introduced, and questions as to authenticity were raised. The court held that it is an “inherent logical necessity” that evidence should not be admitted unless the party offering it can show that the evidence is what it is claimed to be. Court further found that while the 901 authentication requirement is fundamental, it imposes only a “lenient burden” that is “easily met.” The proponent need not conclusively prove the evidence’s authenticity, but merely provide a “rational basis” from which a reasonable finder of fact could draw that conclusion. The proponent can point to “witness testimony, corroborative circumstances, distinctive characteristics,” or other evidence probative of authenticity.