Anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of law

Most people are no more familiar with the Miranda warning than hearing it on TV.

Vincent D

Actor/director Vincent D’Onofrio, as Det. Robert Goren on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.” Photo source:

The second sentence to that warning, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” seems so 1999 though, doesn’t it?  With the vast amount of testimony that is called into court from social media platforms, wouldn’t it be more accurate to add “and anything you’ve previously posted” to the warning?  For instance, the disturbing digital footprints left by suspects to recent episodes of gun violence paint a picture of intent that, were it not for their confessions or self-inflicted demise, would likely serve as evidence against them.

Despite concerns that the FBI and law enforcement officials are slow to respond to alerts from the public prior to shootings, there are also instance when crime fighters use evidence from social media to get it right.  In 2013, New York City’s finest busted the largest gun ring in city history thanks to Instagram posts from the rapper Neno Best.

From the annals of “What was your client thinking?” comes the following story of an Ohio couple who posed with evidence from their bank heist on Facebook.

The introduction of social media into evidence is not limited to criminal investigations;  social media activity is also considered in civil cases.   In reviewing preparation notes for a civil deposition, I was not surprised to find that the defendant’s lawyer requested the social media identities of the plaintiff.  However, I was surprised to find that there were over 60 platforms listed explicitly!  After a little investigation, I found that even this list of sites was not even close to being fully comprehensive.

Stepping back, three things immediately stand out for me.

First, the social media landscape is still expanding.  Consider the proliferation of dating apps into increasingly niche markets: Applause tested 97 dating apps in 2016.  So, if there isn’t a social media platform out there yet that’s been tailored just for you, wait a minute.

Second, as the wake of our social media flotsam and jetsam expands, we’re at increasing risk of someone using online debris out of context to misrepresent us.  Dumpster diving for evidence has turned digital!  In essence, our past lives are becoming harder to escape.

[Prediction: By 2035, I expect the pendulum will swing back the other way.  People will want to lay claim to their histories and demand the ability to erase/re-program their digital past.  A social media market disruption will occur when digital storage and network access take the next quantum leap.  We’ll each be able to carry around our own personal data servers; so, rather than relinquishing control to a faraway server farm, we’ll house our own content and faraway apps will tap into what we grant access.]

Third, artificial intelligence has an expansive market opportunity in social media.  As so many other technologies have done in the past, tools developed for national security and defense will surely make the hop into the commercial domain as the need for predictive tools moves from person-of-interest framework for law enforcement to a “customer-of-interest” or “eyeballs-of-interest” mentality for sales and marketing.  This article from Forbes is just the tip of the iceberg.

This entry was posted in artificial intelligence, Big Data, social media disruption and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of law

  1. sydhavely says:

    Ever to true. Insightful prediction and clever suggestion that the Miranda warning be expanded to include social posts, even though ex post ante may be constitutionally protected but then again, maybe not but certainly applicable to a commercial application, as you say. Excellent post. P.S. Can’t believe the Ohio couple boasting about their bank heist.

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