Social media. A familiar topic for me, and a staple now at ABA TECHSHOW. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I walked into the session, “Social Media as Information Gathering Tool,” a skeptic last week. Obviously social media is an information gathering tool. Twitter has even become a decent Google Reader replacement.
Though I’ve said social media will be a defacto aspect of e-discovery, I now understand why it has taken a few years for that to be true. The session totally blew my mind on how ridiculously lame social search functionality is. Okay. Maybe that’s a little too strong. How ridiculously arcane social search functionality is. With the exception of Google+, every single one of them requires a number of hoops to jump through, both to search what you need and to get to Advanced Search options.
At TECHSHOW, Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch put together an in-depth presentation on the ridiculous hoops required to search MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. It is not as simple as just typing words into the search bar.
Let’s take Twitter as an example.
There is a Search field at the top, but when you use it, your results are limited to “Tweets,” “People,” “Top Photos” and “Top Videos.” It doesn’t tell you how many search results there are, so you have to scroll and click to see if any of the results are what you want. That takes time. Advanced Search might help narrow things down, but there isn’t a link to Advanced Search. I actually have to Google “Twitter advanced search” to find it. Good reminder of why I only use Twitter search to check the spelling of a handle.
To save time and get to the more comprehensive search area of Twitter, it’s better to bookmark its Search link, and its Advanced Search link. One thing to note, though, is that the “People” search functions work best if you already know the Twitter handle. Levitt and Rosch also pointed out that Twitter search only goes back about two weeks.
Facebook is not much better. Like Twitter you can search without logging in, but it is limited. Without logging in, you can search by name, but the better option is Find Friends. That lets you search for people by name, browse by name and also browse Pages. To really dig in, though, you need to log in.
The Ethics of Social Search
Searching social networks is the first obstacle. There are ethical considerations, not to mention counseling your clients on social media use. Levitt and Rosch stressed that lawyers should not tell their clients to “clean” or “sanitize” or otherwise change past postings. According to cases cited during the presentation, judges look unfavorably upon “destruction or spoliation of evidence.” Though it may not seem like it, deleting or altering social media postings qualifies. To help find such cases, they provided a handy listing.
Use it. It’ll save you time while you figure out the arcane search nuances of social networks.
Gwynne Monahan is a #writer best known by her Twitter handle @econwriter5.
Ed. Note: Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch of Internet for Lawyers are the authors of The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet and several other books for lawyers.