“Navigating Social Media Discovery: Steps Counsel Can Take to Address Mass Deletion of Social Media History”

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An interesting post by Phillip Favro, The Hon. Helen Adams, and Leslie Behaunek, Navigating Social Media Discovery: Steps Counsel Can Take to Address Mass Deletion of Social Media History – Innovative Driven (id-edd.com) (June 1, 2022), describes tools provided by Instagram and Facebook that users may employ to delete material posted to social media.

For example, Facebook “enable[s] users to delete some or all of their posts” by “accessing the ‘Activity Log’ option under the account user’s ‘Settings & Privacy’ feature. Users then navigate to ‘Your Posts’ to determine whether they wish to delete selected or all posts. Once posts are deleted, they are moved to the ‘Trash’ repository for 30 days. Before 30 days have lapsed, users can restore the posts to their history. After 30 days, ‘the content will be automatically deleted and can’t be restored.’”  Id.

The article also explains that:

  • “[U]sers can remove other items from their Facebook history including comments, likes, reactions, and so forth. While Facebook allows users to delete these interactions, they must do so on an item by item basis from their respective histories.”
  • “Users also may choose to ‘Archive’ posts. The Archive feature allows users to keep their posts while removing them from their public feed.”
  • “Not every social media provider offers mass deletion functionality. Twitter, for example, still requires users to delete one post at a time. Nevertheless, users can bypass this feature by using third party applications that can help expedite deletion of their Twitter post history.”

While “deactivation” may be permissible, deletion of potentially responsive posts and comments after the duty to preserve has been triggered is not.  Facebook: Deactivation v. Deletion.

Recently, the District of Maryland Gave Qualified Approval to Non-Forensic Downloads of Social Media Data.  It has also explained the standard applicable to social media discovery.  See District of Maryland Applies Narrower Scope of Discovery of Social Media in “Garden Variety” Emotional Distress Cases and District of Maryland Clarifies Rules Governing Discovery of Social Media.