Instagram is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload pictures, post comments, and even promote their business. While it has not quite reached the ranks of Facebook in the social media world, it has made plenty of progress over the years, becoming the second most popular platform in the United States. With its rising popularity, it should come as no surprise that Instagram posts have been admitted as evidence in various court cases throughout the country.
Because many Instagram posts are public, they can be easily admitted as evidence in a court of law. However, the authenticity of the posts must be verified, and it must be proven that the party involved is the owner of the account. In situations where this information is not verifiable, there is likely to be pushback from the other side.
How can Instagram be used in court?
Most posts on Instagram involve photographs. Personal accounts will often show pictures of the user or the places that they have been. It is common for people to update their Instagram profiles with pictures from vacations, special events, and photos of themselves. Depending on the nature of the case, these photos can be used to help prove innocence or guilt.
One common example is that of a person that may be making a personal injury claim, whether against an employer or another individual. They may be seeking money to recoup medical bills or attempting to show an inability to work in order to receive disability. Either way, Instagram photographs can discredit their claims if they show something to the contrary. Recently uploaded photos of the individual participating in sports or other physical activities may be used as evidence against them, causing them to lose the case unless they can prove that the photos were from a time before the injury that they are claiming.
Photos with timestamps can also be used to corroborate or refute a person’s alibi. If a defendant is being accused of a particular crime, their posts may indicate that they were in a different place at the time of the crime. Location services such as geotagging can give even more validity to the use of these posts as evidence.
Instagram Cyber-Bullying Lawsuit
In 2014, Houston parents Reymundo and Shellie Esquivel brought a lawsuit against 7 students after finding that the teens had been harassing their daughter over Instagram. Multiple posts show the group of teenagers maliciously bullying their 16-year-old daughter over the course of several months. The teens were sued for libel and the Esquivels also went after the parents of the students for negligence.
Instagram posts show pictures of the victim alongside other sexually explicit pictures and with language littered with vulgarities and sexually inappropriate comments. The page gained a following of over 900 people before it was shut down. The parents allege that their daughter was left with emotional trauma after the incident.
In this case, Instagram data provided significant proof against the offenders. It is likely to set a precedent for upcoming cases as social media, especially platforms like Instagram, become more commonly used as evidence in courts across the nation.