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Survey: social media evidence soaring in court cases

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Every week the media seems to offer a new account of some dumb crook who is off to the slammer because he posted about his caper on Facebook. It turns out this phenomenon may be even more widespread than we think.

A new survey reports that social media played a significant role in nearly 700 cases in the past two years alone and that most of these involved either MySpace or Facebook. LinkedIn (S LNKD) and Twitter were the next most common social media sites to produce evidence for the justice system. Only one case mentioned FourSquare. The report doesn’t mention Google+ at all.

The trend does not appear to be abating. Here is this week’s genius who posted a Facebook snap that shows him stealing gasoline from a police car.

The findings were based on a study of legal databases  and were published by X1 Discovery, a company that helps lawyers and law enforcement mine social media.

The most curious element of the findings may be the ongoing prevalence of MySpace in the criminal justice system years after most consumers have abandoned the service.

An unscientific explanation for MySpace’s ongoing presence is that most of the cases in the survey are criminal ones, and that crimes typically involve people from lower socio-economic classes. Such people are more likely to be MySpace users than the rest of the population.

Social media has provided not only new evidence for courts but also a challenge for judges who are struggling to decide what to do with jurors who tweet or discuss cases on Facebook.

More highlights from the report can be found on the Forensic Focus blog. A spreadsheet of the findings can be found here.

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