There is no arguing that social media sites are a boon for information related to a case, and not just for Family law, but also for corporate litigation as well. We have had tremendous success with using social sites to tie component pieces of a hard drive or cell phone investigation together.
The proliferation of social websites like Facebook can create discovery issues, though: How do you properly preserve a social site? How do you deal with the opposing side arguing that the request to preserve is “overly burdensome”?
In this article I will walk you through three of the most popular social media sites and some techniques to preserve them easily.
1: Facebook (www.FaceBook.com): Facebook is probably the easiest site to preserve. The user can simply go to “Account Settings”, scroll down to “Download Your Information”, and click on “learn more”. From the Facebook description:
“This tool lets you download a copy of your information, including your photos and videos, posts on your Wall, all of your messages, your friend list and other content you have shared on your profile. Within this zip file you will have access to your data in a simple, browseable manner.”
Once the user clicks “Download”, FaceBook will aggregate the information and email a link to the download. Depending on how much information is there, this can take several minutes or even hours.
2: LinkedIn (www.LinkedIN.com): LinkedIN is a site geared more towards a professional profile than Facebook. We have been successful in using it to uncover additional email addresses, business documents, associations and affiliations primarily in Corporate cases, but it has factored into family law cases before.
The good news is that, while the Facebook preservation method is only useful if you are the specific user, LinkedIN can be documented for the profile information of other users. The bad news is that it is slightly more complex than Facebook to preserve (but not much more!).
The easiest way to archive a LinkedIN account is to already have one yourself, or to create one. NOTE: If the person you are archiving has LinkedIN’s upgraded service, or has agreed to let others see when they view a profile, they will be able to see that you viewed their profile. I’m not going to encourage you to break the Terms of Service by creating an archive account, but that is one way to get around this.
Next, you will want to navigate to Profile-> Profile Organizer. This is actually a paid service offered by LinkedIN, but usually it has a free 30-day trial. More importantly, the free trial does not require a credit card.
Once you sign up for the Profile Organizer, you will be able to search for specific individuals, companies, etc. When you find a profile you can save it to your organizer, archive it, and print it to a PDF.
3: Twitter (www.Twitter.com): Unlike the others, Twitter doesn’t have an actual built-in archiving functionality. Twitter DOES have a great advanced search function that you can access at: search.twitter.com
Once on the Twitter search site, look for the “Advanced Search” link. This will allow you to drill into searches by user, dates, topics, specific words or phrases, locations, etc.
Once you have search results, you can print to PDF, save the list, or use the nifty RSS link in the upper right called “Feed for this query”.