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Social network pages cannot self-authenticate at trial

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Today, Maryland’s highest court reversed a conviction, where the trial judge allowed into evidence MySpace/ social networking webpage through no authentication of the page other than self-authentication. Griffin v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___ (April 28, 2011). Although a law enforcement officer testified that he had printed the page from the Internet, allowing self-authentication of a webpage overlooks that social networking pages are fraudulently published all the time. Because of such fraud, for instance, Twitter sometimes inserts a checkmark next to the name of a celebrity twitterer, to show that the user’s identity has been verified by Twitter.

Pages 21-22 of the slip opinion provide some guidance for ways to try to authenticate webpages, in order to try to admit them into evidence.

It is most unfortunate that the trial judge and Maryland’s intermediate appellate court did not long ago remedy the erroneous admission into evidence of the MySpace page. Thanks to the Court of Appeals (although two of seven judges dissented) for providing this necessary remedy.