An Estimated 500,000 Litigation Matters Involved Social Media Evidence in the Past 12 Months

By John Patzakis
September 21, 2023

As we have mentioned many times, nearly every litigation matter involves social media evidence. If your case does not feature such important evidence, it is likely because you are not looking for it. By analogy, Taylor Swift’s music is all around us, but you won’t hear it unless you tune into it on the radio or your streaming music site of choice. Similarly, you have put some effort to tune into the torrential rivers of social media evidence.

To illustrate this point, we sought to identify some metrics reflecting the ubiquity of social media evidence in litigation matters. While this is an inexact science, we searched online legal databases of state and federal court decisions across the United States to identify the number of cases from the past twelve months where evidence from social networking sites played a significant role. The search was limited to five social networking sites: Facebook, LinkedIn, X/Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for the period September 1, 2022, through August 31, 2023. The preliminary result was 5,623 cases. However, according to UCLA Law, less than 1 percent of litigation matters result or otherwise generate a published opinion, noting that “less than half of intermediate appellate opinions tend to be published. State trial court opinions are never published, and only a tiny fraction of federal trial (district) court opinions are published.”

So, by extrapolating the percentages, we very conservatively estimated that the 5,623 cases represented 1 percent of all cases involving social media evidence, bringing the actual estimated number to 562,300. We then employed a sampling method to determine that about 10 percent of the results were merely situations where the social media company was a named party or de minimis mentions — defined as cases with merely cursory or passing mentions of social media, so we pared down the results to an even half million.

This survey is an important data point establishing the ubiquitous nature of social media evidence and the importance of best practices technology like X1 Social Discovery to “tune in” to this evidence by searching and collecting social media evidence for litigation and compliance requirements.