Social Media Changes the Landscape of the Legal Discovery Process

role of social media in translations industry

As the internet has increased our ability to communicate and share information, the volume of electronically stored information (ESI) has multiplied exponentially. As a result, ESI has become a routine and critical component of litigation.
In 1986, the US Congress enacted the Stored Communications Act (SCA) to provide Fourth Amendment protections for ESI. The discovery process now includes “e-discovery,” which allows litigants to demand copies of ESI when relevant to a case. For cross-border litigation, this means professional translations becomes essential. The laws regarding ESI also pertain to businesses in that they must be all the more watchful and cautious of what is shared online.
Social Media Expands Discovery Opportunities
Online communications have become second nature for individuals and businesses. Blogs, websites, databases, and email are all part of ESI now and accessible through the discovery process in court. The evidentary value to lawsuits of all kinds, from personal injury to family matters, cannot be underestimated.
The online nature of evidence goes beyond the their textual content. Date-stamping, authorship, key-logging and more all fall under the umbrella of discovery now. Courts have even allowed disclosure demands for passwords to protected material. Considering the international nature of the world in which we currently live, the need for legal language translators has become integral to e-discovery, too.

Discovery Must Become Social Media-Savvy
Companies large and small are leveraging the web for marketing and communications. Among the Fortune 100, at least a third maintain active blogs, over half have Facebook pages, and nearly three-quarters have a Twitter account. Increasingly, this material is also translated into foreign languages to serve local markets, requiring more retention and the need for translation services.
All this ESI comes with the legal requirement to save and store it. Often, this is done using digital means.
Companies have legal duty to preserve ESI. The legal system has taken steps to enforce compliance with e-discovery rules and come down hard on litigants who have deleted, altered, or tampered with ESI.
Individuals Can Be At e-Discovery Risk
Anything someone says, writes, or stores in a digital format might someday become relevant to a court case. With the ease of deleting, and the fact that it is often routine habit, it is tempting to delete ESI when faced with a lawsuit. Individuals should be aware that deleting potential evidence is a crime that can result in severe penalties.
The best way to avoid this situation is to not post potentially harmful information in the first place. If an individual or business doesn’t want certain information to end up in a lawsuit, it should not be posted.

The Complications of a Multilingual, Online World
Companies that specialize in e-discovery bring a high level of expertise to finding and acquiring ESI relevant to court cases. To meet the challenge, they can also provide sophisticated language translations services.
The informal nature of social media materials are particularly difficult from a translation point of view. Professional legal translations capture unique information and provide accurate representations of foreign language content that might be crucial in court.
The Demand for e-Discovery Grows Daily
The stakes are high for the legal industry to utilize translations in their ESI discovery process. Facebook has close to two billion users. Twitter users post over 500 million tweets daily. LinkedIn is available in 20 different languages. The market for e-discovery software and services has a value over $8 billion and that figure is expected to rise to over $21 billion in the next five years.
The sheer volume alone requires professional services to search, collect, and translate this information into a useable, legal format. If individuals and businesses are not prudent in their postings, anything might end up in court and be a resource for the prosecution.
Bio of the Author:

Sirena Rubinoff is the Content Manager at Morningside Translations. She earned her B.A. and Master’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. After completing her graduate degree, Sirena won an international fellowship as a Rotary Cultural Ambassador to Jerusalem. Sirena covers topics related to software and website localization, global business solutions, and the translation industry as a whole.

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