Authentication of Facebook Messages

The Mississippi Supreme Court considered for the first time whether Facebook messages were properly authenticated. During the course of the defendant’s trial, the State introduced Facebook messages containing conversations between the defendant and his wife that were utilized as evidence of motive. To authenticate the messages, the wife testified that she and her husband wrote letters to each other on Facebook, and she identified the messages as such.

Because of the ease with which a person can create a fictitious Facebook account or gain access to another’s account by obtaining the username or password, the authentication requirement determining the admissibility of evidence requires “something more” when it comes to social media. The Court elaborated on “something more” explaining that “circumstances peculiar to the particular case may suffice to establish a prima facie showing of authenticity” including but not limited to admitted authorship by the purported sender, the purported sender being seen composing the communication, business records of an internet service provider or cell phone company showing that the communication originated from the purported sender’s personal device under circumstances in which it would be reasonable to believe that the purported sender had access to the device, information within the communication that only the purported sender could be reasonably expected to know, or a response from the purported sender which indicates circumstantially that he was the author of the communication.

The wife’s testimony did not provide any information as to the basis of her purported knowledge, how she knew the account was his, or that he actually authored the messages. Therefore, they should not have been admitted.  Smith v. State, 136 So.3d 424 (Miss. 2014).

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