Keep up-to-date with drugs and crime

The latest research, policy, practice and opinion on our criminal justice and drug & alcohol treatment systems
Social media is critical to police IT systems dealing with newsworthy issues

Share This Post

This is the eighth in a series of posts based on the recent COMPOSITE report on police use of social media across Europe.


Hold the front page

Crime has always been front page news.

Always sold newspapers.

The advent of TV – remember the real time coverage of OJ Simpson’s arrest – accelerated the speed with which news spread:

And social media has ensured that bad news goes global in minutes – as anyone following the Oscar Pistorius case can testify.

Let social media bear the weight

The always-on, global thirst for bad news can cause problems for police forces who need to appeal for information in high profile cases.

A simple post for information on a force website can spread virally within minutes and become global news with the result that the website crashes under the weight of public interest.

An example was the murder of Joanna Yeates over the Christmas period in 2010.

Even though Avon & Somerset Police rented additional infrastructure, the website crashed at peak times as information was requested about her whereabouts.

The force opted to use a set of social media networks to publish important information.

YouTube was used as the network to distribute CCTV footage with requests for information.

Information about the case was also published on Twitter and Facebook.

All these global social media networks have massive infrastructures which can better balance localised high loads.

Social media therefore becomes an important communications tool for small forces with high-newsworthy stories.

But it is also relevant for large-scale emergencies.


World Headlines


Identifying rioters

During and after the 2011 riots in London, the Metropolitan police used Flickr to publish images of suspects.

With announcements on Twitter, the photos were extremely popular.

The Met uploaded a first batch of images on August 9, 2012 at 12 noon.

By midnight the same day, they had been viewed more than 4 million times.

Indeed, this level of  interest even caused Flickr some problems.

The Met’s website traffic increased dramatically during and just after the riots.

Hosting images on a separate server through Flickr helped ensure their site was not overloaded and could run at optimal levels, ensuring the public could still access information on how the police were dealing the riots and public safety information about what they should do.

The advent of social media means that police can request and broadcast information much more quickly with a considerably greater reach without additional and expensive investment in technology.


Next week: social media for efficient policing.


Check out Russell’s half day courses on Tweeting for work/business:

Twitter for beginners

Taking your tweeting to the next level


Share This Post

Related posts

Using social media to assess risk

Could the probation service soon be using computerised algorithms to assess risk of harm to the public by the automatic search of offenders’ Facebook posts?

Online drug and alcohol prevention work

How a viral instagram campaign was created to raise awareness of the thin line between social drinking and problematic alcohol use.

Digital Engagement
Unlocking offenders’ doors to employment

Since they are 10 million individuals in the UK with a criminal record, employers need to think twice before excluding such a large proportion of potential new recruits.

Digital Engagement
What do Apple, Facebook and Google know about you?

We all know that huge technology companies keep track of us, but somehow we never quite imagine the full extent and detail of what they know about us. The infographic below from is educational to say the least:

Leave a Reply

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


Get every blog post by email for free