The use of social media is essentially ubiquitous with living in the today’s society – everyone does it in one form or another. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any of the multitude of texting apps, it is like you use some form of social media on a daily basis. This widespread use of social media can often prove quite valuable in a court of law. Since so much of what we do each day is recorded in some way, it provides ample information for the prosecution to use to try and seek a conviction.
The law surrounding the use of social media in a court of law as evidence against an accused is not entirely settled, is being shaped continuously as cases are argued and is increasingly becoming a litigated area. Social Media information, when captured by a screenshot or photo, is admissible in court under the Canada Evidence Act as an “electronic document” and the test to meet here is quite low. The real threshold to be met is that of weight to be given to these statements.
Social Media has been used by courts for many purposes: to prove that the accused said something (often in the case of uttering threats); to bolster the credibility of the complainant (where she sent a message of being scared to friends on Snapchat during the alleged incident); to impeach credibility (conversations on Facebook reflect a different version of events); whether a complainant took reasonable steps to ascertain the complainant’s age and whether being aware of an age posted on social media is sufficient. The use of social media is only going to continue to grow, and will likely serve to play a larger role in more and more cases. Being aware that what you do and say online can have ramifications in a criminal trial is important, and be conscientious of what you do and say online as it may come back to be the smoking gun used in a prosecution.