social media expert witness scanning online profiles

Social Media Expert Witness: A Rising Digital Skill

Featured image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

The digital space is infinite. There is a demand for new skills every day. For instance, you likely have met people who specialize as digital marketers, social media managers, and virtual assistants. But you might not have come across anyone who says they are a social media expert witness.


What Does a Social Media Expert Witness Do?

During litigations, attorneys usually consult field experts for a detailed explanation of specific jargon and its implications regarding the case at hand.

Social media expert witnesses consult on cases related to the digital industry.

Their work may include social media investigation, expert reports, opinions, and sometimes testimony in the courtroom.

For example, cases in which a social media expert witness can be useful include:

  • Data privacy
  • Copyright infringement
  • Trademark infringement
  • False advertising
  • Webpage design
  • Website user experience
  • Internet fraud
  • Internet defamation
  • Patent infringement

How Does One Qualify as a Social Media Expert Witness?

Although there is no specific course of study for social media expert witnesses in schools, professionals in this field usually have related experience.

Most of them have years of experience in the technology field. These are some of the people you are likely to find as expert witnesses:

  • Digital journalists
  • Startup founders
  • Chief Technology Officers (CTOs)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists
  • Programmers
  • Digital marketers
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT) Professors
  • Cybersecurity experts
  • Cryptocurrency experts

There can be experts in other fields as well who could serve as social media expert witnesses.

How Important Are Social Media Expert Witnesses to Businesses?

The internet is a free world, but not everything on it is entirely free. The laws regulating the industry can be complex. Moreover, most of the time they are obscure.

In 2020, the search giant Google, for instance, was sued for $5 billion for allegedly tracking private internet use. Likewise, in 2021, Italy’s antitrust watchdog fined Amazon $1.28 billion for alleged abuse of market dominance.

In a trademark case, Yahoo! Inc. claimed that the defendants, Akash Arora & Anr, infringed on the global brand Yahoo! with their new website Yahoo! India. The defendants claimed to have included a disclaimer on their site. Nonetheless, the judge ruled in favor of Yahoo! as the argument is logical.

In another case, Beyonce’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, was sued in 2019 over her website’s alleged failure to accommodate visually impaired users.

Similarly, an advocacy group sued Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on behalf of the deaf community. In the suit, the advocacy group alleged that the educational institutions failed to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts, and other educational materials.

In the cases cited above, expert witnesses investigated the issues. For instance, among other investigative actions, they conducted an online survey among site users to confirm or dispute the claims.

Expert witnesses might also testify in court to convince the judge that specific claims by the opposing counsel do not hold water, based on how these experts have studied the social media industry’s operations over the years.

These experts can also consult for businesses that are interested in avoiding these lawsuits altogether.

For example, expert witnesses have helped mainstream news outlets and big technology companies navigate more $200 million in claims having to do with their social media activities.

What Are Some Mistakes to Avoid as a Social Media Expert Witness?

Lawyers try to defend their clients and will often go to great lengths to ensure their client gets the best judgement from a suit. This includes finding ways to discredit key witnesses that could help the opposition’s case.

Most of the time, lawyers do not possess the expertise to debate an expert’s argument, but they do know how to do one thing very well. That is, they find pieces of evidence they can use to discredit a witness’s testimony.

This is why expert witnesses need to ensure they leave no loopholes for any lawyer to explore. Below are some of the mistakes expert witnesses need to avoid to prevent such a scenario:

Failing to Monitor Your Own Social Media Posts

Expert witnesses need to monitor their own social media timelines closely, as well as every post about them. The thing about social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat that makes them so exciting also makes them treacherous. That is, once someone uploads something on them, that upload becomes accessible to the world.

For example, imagine an expert testifying in support of data privacy while several posts on that expert’s page encourage firms to leverage users’ data for revenue.

Sharing Information About Cases Online

Lawyers prefer the details of the cases they handle to remain confidential. Therefore, while it is normal for an expert to use social media for business promotion, they must not post anything that might weaken a client’s case.

So instead of posting about a testimony that helped Company A win a lawsuit of $50 million, the expert should only state the industry of the company. They should post no details that would enable anyone to link the post to the company’s ongoing case.

Experts can also mention the company names among those they have represented without saying the exact case for which they offered their services.

Being Inconsistent

An expert’s view about a case must be consistent. The major reason businesses hire expert witness service is to gain insight into things they need help understanding.

For court testimony, it is essential to make the argument singular. Only present facts that support the client’s case. However, for special consults, an expert might recommend an alternative approach to handling a problem.


Being Indifferent About Your Online Privacy Settings

Not everyone deserves access to view your social media profiles. For example, on Facebook you should only accept friend requests from people you know.

Falling for an Online Prank

Opposing counsel may create a catfish account to spy on you. Also be careful about personal social media posts. Limit online hangouts with friends, for instance, only to people you actually know in real life. You may, however, want to give the public access to posts related to your work.

Engaging in Arguments

Be cautious about your online comments, especially in forums. Even though you might have an opinion about the subject, it is better to write it as a blog and share it on your page or website instead.

This is because engaging forum members in an argument can be messy, as some people are masters in provoking even the meekest people on earth.

Also, you do not want to lose your cool and drop a comment that could be used against you. Always remember: The internet never forgets. Even if you delete a post or comment, screenshots of it might have been saved for future reference.

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