Keep up-to-date with drugs and crime

The latest research, policy, practice and opinion on our criminal justice and drug & alcohol treatment systems
Should the police search out crimes on social media?

Share This Post

There was an interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian which explored the issue of whether the police should get involved in cases of abuse on Twitter.

This whole issue has received a lot of attention and discussion in the wake of the case of Liam Stacey who was jailed for 56 days after he posted racist tweets about Fabrice Muamba, following the footballer’s collapse from heart failure at Bolton’s Premier league game against Tottenham.

@CC_StuartHyde and @DCCTayside were both quoted and put forward what was, for me, a very reasonable case that the police should not invest resources in monitoring social networking sites with two exceptions:

  1. In the case of pursuing investigations into “real world” crimes
  2. To target proactively individuals involved in the sexual grooming of children

The police officers agreed with @_millymoo, a legal Tweeter, Blogger and newspaper columnist, that there was no need for new legislation.

Twitter should police itself

The article brought to my attention a recent interesting phenomenon whereby Tweeters take responsibility themselves for searching out abusive messages and take direct action – by re-tweeting the comments and holding them the authors up to public humiliation.

This approach is used by both @homophobes and @alittleracist to no little effect.

Both accounts re-tweet offensive messages and ask the original Tweeters to defend their views.

Messages are often deleted and people are reminded that Twitter is a public platform.

It’s a similar method to that used by Kick Racism out of Football where fellow spectators have refused to tolerate racist chants and, by and large, driven public racism out of the British game.

Both  @homophobes and @alittleracist agreed in the article that their approach was much more appropriate and effective than involving the police.

Social media for social change

Twitter’s ability to mobilise thousands in a short space of time can be used for all sorts or reasons, good and bad – to organise riots, overthrow governments and confront racism and homophobia.

I have a sense that we are only just beginning to appreciate the power of collective action on social networks.

Please contribute your own examples below.



Share This Post

Related posts

Criminal Justice
Can Twitter indicate local crime rates?

Intriguing study finds that twitter can reliably indicate prevalence of certain crimes, although only in low-crime London neighbourhoods.

The law can’t cope with crimes on social media

The ideal is for social media networks to police themselves, but you only have to look at some of the outrageous, sexually violent tweets that many women routinely encounter online to know that this approach isn’t always sufficient.

Digital Engagement
MoJ takes #notorevengeporn campaign online

Revenge Porn is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person, without their consent and with the purpose of causing distress.

London’s gun crime

Hidden in the text of the article is the rather less sensational and more welcome finding that gun crime has been falling rapidly with only 127 shots fired in the first half of 2014 with just one related death. What is perhaps most startling is the way that the police have reduced shootings without entering into a gun battle with criminals.

How burglars use social media

Criminals and law enforcement officials are early adopters of new technologies and social media in particular in their battle to outwit each other. There are plenty of ways in which burglars in particular can develop their lean systems to target and gather intelligence on potential victims and minimise the risks of getting caught. Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are particularly straightforward ways of finding out if someone is away on holiday or business. Google StreetView makes advance reconnaissance a piece of cake. The infographic below summarises some of the main techniques in current use…

Digital Engagement
Police & Twitter, Spanish Style

Did you know that the Spanish national police force Twitter account @policia has over half a million followers? Only the FBI has more. Police display the national Twitter handle on their uniforms and their patrol cars. Spanish Police use Twitter differently from British Police – the focus is not on engaging with individual members of the public but on gathering intelligence – frequently to target drug dealers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every blog post by email for free