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What you delete from social media can still show up in court

by | Aug 10, 2022 | Criminal Defense

You may already realize that your social media activity could influence the criminal case against you. Prosecutors and investigators may pore over your online activity looking for indicators that you have spoken about crime, acknowledged a connection to someone else involved or otherwise implicated yourself online.

Obviously, posts discussing criminal activity, making jokes about crime or acknowledging relationships with other people involved in a particular incident could hurt your criminal case. Even content like memes and photos of you with your friends and family could play a role in the case the state builds against you.

Can social media content that you have deleted from your social media stream also play a role in your case?

Removing posts and changing privacy settings won’t protect you

Those who specialize in digital forensics will tell you that anything you share online is there forever. Anyone who interacts with you online or has access to your profile and content can take a screenshot of your online activity and continue sharing that even after you delete that content.

Even if people you know don’t collect evidence against you and then hand it over to the state later, your deleted posts could still end up used by the prosecution. Social media platforms will provide records of your activity, including activity that you have since removed. Just like deleting content won’t protect you from other people discovering it, and you could face accusations that you intentionally tried to destroy evidence by removing some of your posts or comments with a pending criminal case.

You cannot rely on changing your privacy settings to protect you fully either. Anyone on your friends list could share what you share, and as with deleted content, your private or friends-only content will still leave a record on the company’s servers that law enforcement can connect with via a warrant.

Social media is a big risk for anyone with pending charges

Even with an account that you lock down almost completely and a personal policy of not discussing your legal issue, your social media activity could be a concern for your defense. Many people facing upcoming legal challenges will intentionally take a leave of absence from social media or sometimes decide to fully remove their profiles.

Most people should get direct advice on what steps to take based on the kind of charges they face and the level of activity they engage in on social media. Understanding seemingly innocent behaviors that could complicate your criminal defense strategy can increase your chances of a successful defense.