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March 31, 2021
Preserving Evidence: How To Download Videos from Instagram Without a Third-Party Application.

Reviewing social media during an investigation is an integral baseline practice for identifying individuals’ online presence, obtaining information, and potentially obtaining and preserving evidence, regardless of the nature of the investigation. Weather you are reviewing an executive’s background to determine if there is anything unsavory in the public record or searching to obtain evidence that an employee was engaged in corporate waste by spending time on social media during work hours, a thorough review of social media can provide an investigator with useful information and evidence.

Over the past five years or so, social media applications and websites such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have grown in popularity. With the growth of video format posts on these websites through Instagram’s stories, Twitter videos and “Fleets” and IGTV as well as TikTok’s short-video format, users posting videos to their profiles have become more common.

One good practice for investigators is to preserve as much evidence of their investigation as possible, particularly when looking at social media. It is common for individuals to later delete their social media posts and activity, and so downloading copies of activity for evidence can be crucial.
In order to extract videos from platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, there are several third-party applications that allow direct download of material. However, in order to preserve security and minimize risk, investigators can utilize some available tools to directly download these media files.

A primary useful tool for downloading media files from social media platforms is the “Inspect Element” or “Inspect” feature built into web browsers including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and others. This allows individuals to view the CSS coding for a website, and to view the parts that make up a webpage.

For the purposes of this process, you will need to have an active account on most social media platforms. For the purposes of investigation, we typically would suggest utilizing a secure anonymized profile, which we will cover in another post. But for now, we can assume that you have an account and access to it through a web browser.

The example post below contains a video compilation of Elizabeth Swan, the fictional character portrayed by Natalie Portman:

  1. To utilize the Inspect Element feature, you can click the “settings” button on Chrome, located on the top right corner of the browser, and select “More Tools” -> “Developer Tools”
  2. By using key search terms including “Video” or “.mp4”, we can locate a secure URL for the video host. Once you find this, you can open the URL in a new tab. One located, right click the file URL and the select “open in new tab”:
  3. After opening the URL in a new tab, you are now presented with a video file that you can download. To do so, simply right click the video, and select “save file as” to save it to your preferred drive.
  4. We can apply this same tactic to our investigations. Perhaps you have found an individual posting a video where they are involved in criminal activity that can later be used as evidence in court. Or perhaps your subject is simply posting videos to Instagram while they are working – you can save these videos as evidence to support a corporate waste claim.


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