11 ways social workers have used social media to gather evidence

As the debate about how to use social media in safeguarding continues, here are ways social workers have used it in the past

social media
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We recently asked social workers to share how they had used social media to gather evidence for cases they were working on.

Here are some of the examples of why social workers were prompted to use social media, and how it was used.

  • “Other people have pointed out to me service user profiles which contain information which causes serious concern for their safety or the safety of others. I have then looked closely at these profiles to assess whether there may be criminal offences being committed and whether someone could be at risk of significant harm.”


  • “[The] person was at massive risk of child sexual exploitation, [so] used social media to identify perpetrators, vehicles involved, and also other victims involved.”


  • “I work with difficult young adults who are involved in a lot of issues. sometimes this is the only way I can get any information about where they are or their friends.”


  • “I used it to evidence a parent’s current lifestyle and used it with a potential step parent adoption court report.”


  • “Proving parents [are] still in a relationship where issues of significant domestic violence. Information found confirming this and was used during care proceedings.”


  • “In children’s care proceedings when I received information to suggest that the service users were making threatening comments towards myself or endangering the children concerned. Social media was searched following this specific concern being raised and concerning information was documented and passed onto to the court.”


  • “When a service user is not supposed to be in a relationship as it presents a high risk to the children. On Facebook they were clearly together. Fb profile was open so public information. Printouts of the screen shots were used as evidence in care proceedings and accepted by judge.”


  • “On only one occasion – it was reported in anonymously that mum was back in a relationship with a risky domestic violence perpetrator and that this was on Facebook – Facebook was looked at and on basis of evidence strategy discussion and [Initial Child Protection Conference] organised.”


  • “I was granted permission to do a Facebook trawl as a service user’s family member put me on Facebook Live during a visit. He put my vehicle on the video and said he was going to smash it up, this was then used as evidence during a court of protection case.”


  • “I did access a service user’s social media account but felt this was too intrusive and so did not pursue this.”


  • “I have had people email me anonymously links to YouTube clips of parents hitting a new-born baby which they thought was funny. I have also looked at a service user’s Facebook page to determine whether the printouts of ‘incriminating evidence’ given by their ex-partner were authentic. I also looked at Twitter where two parents were abusing each other quite openly. This all happened in the early days of social media – maybe 8 or 9 years ago. I’d be a lot more cautious now.”

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One Response to 11 ways social workers have used social media to gather evidence

  1. Bionic Woman November 29, 2018 at 3:30 pm #

    Just to add to the above list, I note that a social media check is completed as a standard check during the course of assessments of prospective foster carers. The agency for whom I have completed checks gave me the account and log-in details for Facebook.

    That said, I have also checked social media when working with children who had been removed due to serious abuse and the alleged perpetrator, who was the subject of a criminal investigation, continued to use social media to communicate with a child whom he was alleged to have abused.