Facebook Groups are an Important Source of Electronic Evidence

By John Patzakis
August 18, 2021

Facebook Groups are moderated online forums on the social media giant’s platform where often thousands of users engage with and share content with others. The groups can be either private or public. Most large corporate sponsored groups are public and widely viewable without further permissions required. In published legal decisions over the past year, courts cited evidence collected from Facebook groups in over 90 cases. And as published case decisions are a very small subset of all litigation matters, we can extrapolate an exponentially higher number of such cases overall. In these recent cases, Facebook Groups posting provided key evidence in product liability and employment class action matters, defamation, intellectual property and other high-stakes commercial litigation.

Example of a Social Discovery Facebook Capture – Groups

Facebook groups are now an extremely valuable marketing and sales tool for corporations. Many companies center groups around their brand to build a customer community or engage in other forms of customer outreach. See Smith v. LIFEVANTAGE CORPORATION Dist. Court, D. Utah, 2020, “Distributors and potential Distributors were encouraged to participate in open Facebook Groups.”

Groups are also utilized by disgruntled consumers, plaintiffs’ lawyers and activists to express grievances or to organize to seek legal or government redress. See Porter v. City of Port Orange Dist. Court, MD Florida, 2016, “As is by now commonplace, Facebook Groups are the soapbox for community organizers.”

Group postings on a given topic often number in the thousands. It is thus important that best practices are used so that all the relevant data is captured and be text searchable for detailed review and analysis. While mere screen shots are problematic for smaller social media collections, they are particularly unsuitable for collections involving Facebook groups.

Flat file screen shots of social media are of limited value, as what they generally entail is a screenshot image file without metadata, other than what is visible on the image itself. This is problematic as there are many important but hidden metadata fields associated with social media posts that need to be parsed and populated into the appropriate fields associated with the post. Also, flat images do not enable effective text extraction, and it is impossible to cull, process, display, and apply analytics to flat file outputs in attorney review platforms such as Relativity. Associated comments to a post are not collected, or at best are truncated and not displayed in line.

Conversely, post-level native collection of social media is ideal, because it enables the collection of the social media post as a parent item with all associated metadata and comments preserved and displayed in line. This will enable the automated generation of robust load files that include date stamps and other key metadata, extracted text for searching, family post identification and associated comments. Additionally, post-level hash values can be readily generated at the point of collection and verified to establish evidentiary authentication.  All this enables a very fluid and scalable workflow that dramatically reduces downstream processing and review platform upload costs.

With the recent release of version 5.14, X1 Social Discovery is the only eDiscovery solution to provide post-level parsing for Facebook Group posts in the new Facebook format, and the only solution to enable automated item-level bulk collection of Facebook Groups.