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Latest Court Opinion on Social Media Authentication (U.S. v. Browne)

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Latest Court Opinion on Social Media Authentication (U.S. v. Browne)

The advent of social media has presented the courts with new challenges in the prosecution of criminal offenses, including in the way data is authenticated under the Federal Rules of Evidence—a prerequisite to admissibility at trial.

Appellant Tony Jefferson Browne was convicted of child pornography and sexual offenses with minors based in part on records of “chats” exchanged over Facebook and now contests his conviction on the ground that these records were not properly authenticated with evidence of his authorship.

Although we disagree with the Government’s assertion that, pursuant to Rule 902(11), the contents of these communications were “self-authenticating” as business records accompanied by a certificate from the website’s records custodian, we will nonetheless affirm because the trial record reflects more than sufficient extrinsic evidence to link Browne to the chats and thereby satisfy the Government’s authentication burden under a conventional Rule 901 analysis.

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