Why Post-Level Parsing is Critical for Effective Social Media Evidence Collection

By John Patzakis

As succinctly noted by The Florida Bar Association in its publication, Florida Law Journal: “Social media is everywhere. Nearly everyone uses it. Litigants who understand social media–and its benefits and limitations–can immeasurably help their clients resolve disputes…it is inevitable that the social media accounts of at least one person involved in a dispute will have potentially relevant and discoverable information.“ “Social Media Evidence: What You Can’t Use Won’t Help You” Florida Law Journal, Volume 88, No. 1.

The high volume of relevant social media evidence means that lawyers are under an ethical duty of competence to address and account for it in their litigation and compliance matters. For this reason, there has been a strong demand for social media evidence collection software and services. However, Facebook, the most widely used social media platform, rolled out a completely new interface and data format in the latter part of 2020 for all their 2.4 billion users. This broke every social media evidence tool on the market, causing a major disruption of eDiscovery and compliance workflows. In response, social media evidence collection tools either exited the market, changed their model to services, or provided flat file screen shots as their output.

Flat file screen shots of social media are of limited value, as what they generally entail is a screenshot image file without metadata, other than what is visible on the image itself. This is problematic as there are many important but hidden metadata fields associated with social media posts that need to be parsed and populated into the appropriate fields associated with the post. Also, flat images do not enable effective text extraction, and it is impossible to cull, process, display, and apply analytics to flat file outputs in attorney review platforms such as Relativity. Associated comments to a post are not collected, or at best are truncated and not displayed in line.

Conversely, post-level native collection of social media is ideal, because it enables the collection of the social media post as a parent item with all associated metadata and comments preserved and displayed inline. This will enable the automated generation of robust load files that include date stamps and other key metadata, extracted text for searching, family post identification and associated comments. Additionally, post-level hash values can be readily generated at the point of collection and verified to establish evidentiary authentication.  All this enables a very fluid and scalable workflow that dramatically reduces downstream processing and review platform upload costs.

With the recent release of version 5.12, X1 Social Discovery is the only eDiscovery solution to provide post-level parsing for Facebook timeline posts in the new Facebook format, as well as for Twitter feeds. To learn more about this important functionality, watch the webinar.

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