In today’s digital age, more and more people are spending time on the internet. They spend an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes on social media alone, with the younger population driving numbers even higher. Nigeria, the Philippines, India, the United States, and China are the five countries that spend the longest time across multiple social platforms. Many use these sites as they allow for a lot of freedom and connectivity among peers. People can now say anything they want to whomever they wish to talk to, instantaneously.
This has blurred the line in the legal world as social media continues to change aspects of the justice system – especially within the field of digital forensics. As time has passed, these platforms are changing the way crimes are processed to adapt to the modern age.
These are just some of the ways social media has shaped digital forensics:
Widened the field of forensics
Forensics used to rely on physical evidence left at a crime scene. This can range from a perpetrator’s fingerprints to weapons they may have used to carry out crimes. Because of today’s highly digital systems, forensics must give way to modernization.
Consequently, technology and social platforms have opened up new career paths in criminal justice. Computer forensics is a great example of this. These investigators retrieve information from computers and collate digital evidence to assist in crime solving, as well as being called to testify in court about the evidence they accumulate. They are highly knowledgeable in their specialties – even going so far as understanding how to obtain evidence from damaged or wiped devices.
Since social media heavily relies on a user’s digital footprint, these platforms give digital forensic professionals a new medium to explore. This also increases the necessary skills and training needed to work within the field.
Increased admissible evidence
As mentioned above, the integration of social media into digital forensics opens up new avenues for the justice system. It has expanded what can be considered admissible evidence during hearings. This can mean that a defendant’s posts, comments, and messages can help the prosecution build and solidify their cases.
But today, social media is still underutilized in the courtroom. One of the biggest challenges comes when the court is trying to authenticate certain pieces of evidence. Some aspects of these platforms – especially private messaging – can still be submitted so long as it is relevant to the case. Prosecutors must also be able to prove that the defendant was the one making such posts and correspondence.
While social media has definitely expanded what can and can’t be used in court, it gives a few more challenges for digital forensics specialists. This further contributes to the skills necessary to do the job.
Created new discourse
The use of social media in digital forensics has also opened up new discourse within the justice system. Many law enforcement officials have continued to have conversations on the ethics behind using social media, especially when it comes to privacy and freedom of speech.
The government continues to shape bills and laws that cater to the changing environment of digital forensics. This means that defendants are always entitled to a certain amount of privacy, despite the digital medium of the evidence. They also have the right to express their opinions on the internet so long as their statements are of public interest.
It is clear that social media has changed the way digital forensics aids the justice system. With new developments and trends happening all the time, there is no doubt that these platforms will continue to shape the industry’s landscape.
By Sienna Harlow