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Authenticating Social Media Text Messages


In order to be admissible at trial, a document or a writing must be authenticated under the Rules of Evidence. This means that some type of foundation must be established to show that a document or writing is what it is claimed to be. This applies to all forms of documentary evidence, including e-mails, text messages, and social media messages.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia recently issued a decision relating to the authentication of Facebook Messenger Text Messages.

In State v. Benny W, 837 S.E.2d 679 (W. Va. 2019), the Court held “Under Rule 901(a) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence, social media text messages may be authenticated in numerous ways including, for example, by a witness who was a party to sending or receiving the text messages, or through circumstantial evidence showing distinctive characteristics that link the sender to the text messages.”

Distinctive characteristics could take the form of a unique writing style, such as slang, abbreviations, nicknames, or emoji. It could also be established by knowledge about private details that would not be known by others.