Use of social media records as evidence of misconduct

Harriet Witchell - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

There is no doubt that social media is playing an increasing role in our lives.  

Have you ever been handed a folder of print outs from Facebook and told; “Here you go, I want this person out!”?

An increasing number of organisations are developing social media policies as a starting point to control inappropriate staff interaction online, but the question still arises: ‘how do you prove that someone has breached the policy?’

Where do you start?

Initial questions that need to be asked include;  What was said?  Is it work-related?  Who wrote it? At first glance, the latter question may seem obvious, but in more than one case, someone impersonating someone else has posted comments. To take effective administrative action, you must “prove” who made these comments. This is known as “attribution of the records”.

In a recent case conducted by Access Forensics, alternate records from the social media site identified the true author of the comments and a just outcome was achieved.

In another case, a client became concerned with internet records which appeared to suggest excessive use of the company’s IT system to visit social media sites.  However, closer inspection confirmed that most records were generated as a result of automatic processes not initiated by the user, nor as a result of visiting the social media site.

To effectively attribute a digital record to a particular author, it’s imperative that the investigator uses good, old fashioned interviewing skills, to question the alleged author about the creation of the social media post. They should also collect other sources of evidence and circumstances surrounding the case, to avoid attributing the post to the wrong person.

So what do you need from your Facebook printouts?
  • The name of the person who saw the comments on Facebook
  • The name of the account where they were seen
  • The time and date of printing off the posts
  • The name of who did the printing
  • A description of how they did the printing

All this information can be easily obtained in a statement that should accompany the Facebook pages and give credibility to the source of the evidence. These steps won’t prove who said what, but they will give weight to the evidence that you have.

Written by Harriet Stacey of WISE Workplace in collaboration with Clinton Towers, of Access Forensics

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