The Disappearing Act: Using Ephemeral Social Media In Litigation
May 13, 2021
By Daniel Garrie and Gail Andler
Disappearing and self-destructive messages were a considered a “thing of the future” not too long ago. With technological advancements and the development of new messaging platforms, however, this is now quite a common function. In fact, today ephemeral messaging, a form of communication that lasts a short period of time before disappearing, can be found on various social media platforms. Snapchat, for example, allows users to transmit pictures, videos and messages, for a chosen amount of time (e.g., three seconds), to other users. Once the recipient opens the “snap,” it will automatically self-destruct after the chosen amount of time passes. This technology was embraced by pre-teens and teenagers who could prevent snooping parents from reading their messages. In very short order, lawyers turned their attention to how ephemeral messages could be preserved and authenticated for purposes of litigation.
While ephemeral messaging applications and platforms such as Snapchat are used for communicating information that someone wishes to preserve to withstand potential questions about their authenticity, it raises challenges. So, when you or client receive a snapchat or other message from a disappearing messaging tool, how do you preserve that message?
Screenshots may seem like the obvious answer, but in reality, how reliable is a screenshot? A quick Google search for “fake a screenshot,” will reveal that tutorials and/ or actual screenshot generators abound which allow users to fake text message conversations. On the website “iphonefaketext.com,” for example, it is possible to enter various data values, such as contact name, carrier, message content, and even signal strength. Entering enough detail into this type of fake message generator can result in a very convincing faux screenshot of a conversation.
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