A recent case, Moroccanoil v. Marc Anthony Cosmetics, highlighted the importance of social media investigations in court cases. In this case, a federal district court ruled that Facebook screenshots were inadmissible in court. Their reasoning: that web pages and screenshots could not be authenticated. They then applied this logic to Facebook screenshots. As a result of the ruling, the court dismissed the screenshots as evidence in the case.
Understanding the Case
The Plaintiff in the case, Moroccanoil, Inc. filed a complaint against Marc Anthony Cosmetics, Inc.. The complaint related to trademark infringement and unfair competition. Moroccanoil registered the word Moroccanoil with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
As part of their defense, Marc Anthony submitted social media evidence. This evidence consisted of screenshots of customers on Moroccanoil’s Facebook page using the term “Moroccanoil and Moroccan Oil” interchangeably.
The courts, however, determined that the Facebook posts could not be properly authenticated. This is because the courts have long recognized that anyone can put anything on the internet.
The two parties have since resolved their disputes. The confidential global settlement protects their respective intellectual properties.
Social Media Posts Need Authentication
Attorneys and law firms that understand the limits and benefits of social media can help their clients during trials and disputes. After all, virtually everyone uses some form of social media these days.
Yet, courts have ruled that web-based evidence is worthless when plaintiffs cannot authenticate it. When social media posts fail to meet the necessary evidentiary requirements, courts dismiss them.
A simple screenshot is not enough. Even when the screenshot bears identifying information, it is not enough. It cannot be used as proper evidence during a trial. As such, law firms need to undertake a proper social media investigation.
According to the courts, authentication of electronic communications, such as Facebook posts, require more than mere confirmation that they belong to a specific person. Supporting evidence is required. Metadata is a key form of this evidence.
Many courts have applied Rule 901(b)(4). They have ruled that metadata and other ESI data are sufficient supporting evidence. This data can establish the posts’ authenticity.
Comprehensive Social Media Investigations
Attorneys and law firms can benefit from evidence gathered from social media investigations. Social media posts and pages make valuable pieces of evidence. However, they are only valuable if they are authenticated and provide relevant evidence.
A comprehensive social media investigation involves more than just looking through social media posts. It involves deep examination of hundreds of social media platforms and posts to gather key pieces of evidence.
It also requires gathering the necessary information and data required by the courts. Oftentimes, this information cannot be accessed and organized efficiently without sophisticated software and technology.
An effective social media investigation can even gather data on individuals who do not have social media profiles.
Our Social Media Private Investigators Offer Extensive Social Media Investigation Services
Contact the social media investigators at Bosco Legal Services, Inc. We provide extensive social media investigations, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram that can help authenticate key pieces of evidence.