Careful! Your Chat Record Can Now Be Used as Evidence in Court!


Last Thursday, the Supreme People's Court, the highest level of court in mainland China, officially announced its updated list of digital content that can be used as evidence against a defendant in court, which includes the following items:

1. Information published on websites, blogs, micro-blogs and other online platforms;

2. Mobile phone SMS, email, instant messaging, messaging groups and other network application services;

3. Registered user information, electronic transaction records, communication records, login information, and other related data;

4. Documents, pictures, audio, video content, digital certificates, computer programs and other electronic files;

5. Other information stored, processed and transmitted in digital form that can support the facts of a case.

The guideline, to take effect on May 1, 2020, stipulates that information relating to internet users' registration of online accounts, identities, online transactions or online communication records - as well as online documents, including archives, pictures, audio and video recordings, and computing programs - can also be considered as digital evidence admissible in court.

"This is the first time the Supreme People's Court has clarified the scope of digital evidence, especially on social media platforms and instant messaging services," said Li Ya, a lawyer at the Zhongwen Law Firm in Beijing. From now on, we will have a much clearer understanding of what types of digital information can be admissible in court to support a case.

The new guideline to be implemented by the Supreme Peoples Court will help courts at all levels identify evidence when handling civil lawsuits, and suggested judges conduct more research on the application of digital evidence to improve the quality of case hearings.

But in order for such evidence to be admissible, users need to keep a record or history of their original chat notes. 

To put it simply, for precautionary measure, avoid deleting chat records if you believe that you have been cheated or wronged by a particular user. A screenshot of your conversation will not be admissible instead, courts ask to be provided the original chat record. 

To keep pace with the rapid growth of the internet and other fast-developing technologies, China has opened three internet courts since 2017. 

More than 80,000 cases had been decided in those courts, mainly covering disputes on online loans, online purchases.

Editor: Crystal H


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