5 Ways Social Media Has Changed Forensic Investigations

Currently, we all live in a technologically driven era, which is one of the main reasons why forensic investigators started concentrating on various social media networks. More specifically, they started looking at the photographs, videos, and other content posted on these sites.

Yes, social media does have a role in forensic science, and if you’re wondering how it has changed this particular field, you’re lucky, mostly because we’ll discuss this in our article below. But, before we take a look at the ways it has changed forensic investigations, let’s first learn what it is:

There is Such a Thing Called Social Media Forensics

Source: newhaven.edu

As you might have guessed, social media forensics is the process of collecting, analyzing, and storing information, photographs, videos, and of course, written posts from various social media networks including the most popular Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, as well as Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp, Viber, Pinterest, and so on. The main objective of social media forensics is to locate and/or find evidence against criminals.

So, How Has it Changed The Forensic Field?

Back in 2005, online 5 percent of adults used some type of social media, and compared to today, that percentage grew to over 70. This increase, as well as all the technological advancements that happened lead to more individuals – and criminals – sharing videos and photographs of their everyday lives and law enforcement quickly realized that they can use this to their advantage. Here are the top five ways social media sites changed forensic investigations:

1. It Helps At Linking Criminals to The Scene of The Crime

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Seven years ago, the lifeless body of a young lady was found alongside a highway in Canada with a belt next to her, one that her family and friends claimed that isn’t hers. The case went cold for three years, and in 2018, law enforcement in Canada convicted an individual based on a photograph that he posted on Facebook of him, and the victim was taken right before he took her life. How did they manage to do that?

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Well, it’s simple to understand – the guy was wearing the identical belt that was discovered on the scene. This means that, if investigators didn’t look at his social accounts, they probably would’ve never been able to connect him with the victim, nor would they have the evidence they need for a conviction. Hence, it’s pretty safe to say that these websites can and do provide crucial evidence that can be used for connecting criminals and suspects to different actions.

2. It’s Being Used For Solving Cold Cases

You might not realize this, but investigators actually started utilizing social media sites for solving cold, missing-person claims. For example, in 1995, an individual left his home to follow his favorite band on tour, however, after a couple of months, he didn’t return home, nor did he let his family know where he is. Sadly, the man ended up passing away in a horrific car accident in Virginia that killed one other person.

The victims’ wallets were completely destroyed in the accident, which is why the family of the person operating the vehicle didn’t know how the other person in the car was. But, in 2024, the police updated and posted a drawing based on the postmortem photographs, which is when the mom and sibling of the man saw the sketch and identified him. Since then, hundreds of more cold missing person claims have been solved thanks to social media sites.

3. It Can Help Prevent Fraud

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There is no denying – the Internet is full of scams and frauds that easily trick people into doing various things – such as depositing money and never getting what they were promised. However, nowadays, there are companies such as truepeoplecheck.com that’ll perform social media investigations by using a wide range of software and online tools to gather information and data available out there, thus, individuals could gather intel on a company or individual that might be trying to scam them.

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4. Further Crimes Have Been Prevented

I use social media platforms almost every day, which is why I sometimes see people threaten each other or a specific individual. In some cases, the threats become a reality and when forensic investigators browse through the suspects’ posts, they can find the evidence they need for convicting the criminal. Because of this, when a new case arises, the police immediately look at the suspect social media accounts, mostly because they could determine what they did and where they currently are.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that social media can prevent further crimes. For instance, there was a case in the US where an individual assaulted women on the streets at night and when investigators came across his Facebook profile, they realized that he announced that he will do it again. They quickly took action and arrested the person, which basically means that they prevented further attacks from happening.

5. There is No Need For Warrants

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Last on this list, but definitely, something that you should be aware of is that the police no longer need to get warrants for seizing suspects’ devices, instead, they can access their social media sites and take screenshots of the evidence they need for arresting the individual. Basically speaking, they collect digital evidence of a crime or threat and from there, they can submit it to a court of law.

Additionally, this type of evidence can speed up the entire process, which means that, even if they need to obtain the device, later on, they’ll be able to easily get a warrant, thus, they can make sure that the criminal is no longer a threat to other people. Hence, with various software, technology, and social media, forensic investigators can now get the evidence they require for putting a criminal behind bars.

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A lot of people don’t realize it, but social media platforms are integral to forensic investigations. Besides helping prevent fraud and further crimes, these networks can also help law enforcement solve current and old cases, which of course, leads to them convicting criminals that would otherwise walk freely.

By now, you probably understand how important these platforms are for forensic investigators and if so, you should know that there is a lot more that you could learn. So, instead of spending time reading articles similar to this one, do some digging and learn what tools and programs law enforcement uses for connecting people with crimes.