Tuesday, August 30, 2016

3d Cir. on authenticating social media exhibits

I don't usually cover criminal cases here, but this one deals with an interesting evidence issue. In U.S. v. Browne, the Third Circuit addressed authentication of social media evidence (the facts involve a scumbag who solicited sexually explicit photos from 12-18-year olds and then threatened to publish them if the kids didn't perform sex acts).

Not official use.
The analysis is surprisingly convoluted. The gist of it is that Facebook chat logs were not "self-authenticating." However, the government also provided "extrinsic evidence," such as the defendant identifying himself in the chat logs, telling the kids to call him on a phone number that matched his phone number, the kids testifying that they participated in the conversations, they met the defendant in person (and ID'd him) based on the chat messages, the defendant admitted that he used the account in question, and more.
[T]he Government not only provided ample evidence linking Browne to the Button Facebook account but also supported the accuracy of the chat logs by obtaining them directly from Facebook and introducing a certificate attesting to their maintenance by the company’s automated systems.
The opinion provides a good read for anyone looking to introduce social media into evidence.