The value of social media in investigative litigation and arbitration support

Nick Bortman

Social media is a rich source of evidence and intelligence in disputes. Whether trying to locate someone for service, identify a yacht in the Mediterranean or a villa in France or just confirm a relationship between two individuals, people let their guard down when they think it’s only personal.

Take a recent example of a bank pursuing a former client who defaulted on a series of loans. That same individual was under investigation by his own government and several other financial institutions were also preparing claims. He had ruined his family’s business empire. His houses in Europe had been sold and his businesses shuttered. But where was the man himself? His social media feeds had gone quiet months earlier. His girlfriend’s too.

And then we discovered his dog on Instagram. Yes, his puppy had a spoof account: a picture on a tropical beach; the dog soaked, panting, on a dock. He gushed about his “new home”. Then he assigned a geotag to a photograph.

When it comes to litigation, parties need to recognise the opportunities and the risks of social media. Their adversaries are more than likely to have their own investigators scouring their online footprints. If nothing else, common sense must prevail.

If you are not sure, then err on the side of discretion. In today’s information age, you never know who is watching.

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