Image Source: Youtube


Bystanders and witnesses may have information that is relevant to crime investigations or address security challenges.

Therefore, LEAs uses social media to ask the public for help (targetted or not).

  • Equipped with smartphones, bystanders and witnesses may have captured information that is relevant to crime investigations or address security challenges.
  • LEAs use social media to ask the public for help, e.g. during: Boston Marathon Attack: Report of Responsible Officer; UK Riots 2011: Identification of suspects; Shooting Munich 2016: Special site to submit information.
  • LEAs use of police website to ask citizens for their help to solve a case (e.g. in the Netherlands). The public can give tips or indicate how they see the thing is gone (what is the scenario?). People will be kept informed of new developments in the case.
  • Another type of crowdsourcing crime tips is by using the traditional media (TV) in conjunction with social media, like the second screen with the Dutch programme ‘Opsporing Verzocht’ (NL).
  • Using social media for crime tips submission, is, however, not a practice that police forces encourage, as they do not want sensitive information to be submitted publicly or via corporate systems. The Police Service Nothern Ireland (PSNI) regularly issue appeals, updates on arrests and charges and crime prevention information on their social media channels. PSNI, however, do not accept reports of crime on their social media. The public are advised to contact police by phone to report crime.
  • LEAs create podcasts to make crime cases public and ask citizens for help.
  • “Crowdsolve” is a platform designed to help solve crimes.
  • LEAs use Pinterest to share wanted people lists:
  • In UK through the app Facewatch ID provides an online portal enabling Police and communities to work together towards reducing crime. The police post images of the individuals they are seeking to identify. The individuals pictured are being sought as both persons of interest and witnesses to crimes.
  • The Dutch Burgernet provides a mobile service where people can register to receive police messages asking to be on the look-out. Burgernet is a national NL initiative; a cooperation between police, municipalities and citizens. Participants of Burgernet (citizens that joined Burgernet as a member) receive a voice or text message with the request to look for a person or vehicle in their area. (see also:
  • The Spanish National Police official webpage has a section for citizen collaboration, to report allegedly criminal facts. This report is not equivalent to a formal report, and it is confidential.

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When doing house to house calls most people are not home, and it takes a lot of effort.

Therefore, LEAs perform house to house enquiries using social media.

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Information on social media can help solve crimes.

Therefore, LEAs monitor and analyse data on social media that is relevant for crime cases.

Note: This practice is similar to MONITORING and SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYTICS, but in this case specific in the scope of a crime case.)

Image Source: Pixabay


Investigations can require to interact with suspects in covert operations.

Therefore, LEAs create a fake online persona to impersonate people and befriend the suspect under cover.

Image Source: PSNI


Social media have changed many aspects of public and privates lives and directly impact public security.

Therefore, LEAs adopt social media and understand the relevance for their work and we consider the adoption of social media by public security organization in itself a best practice.

  • The use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube is allowing the interaction between the citizens and the police as we detail in ENGAGEMENT & COMMUNICATION.
  • Social media also provide a data source for investigations, as we detail in CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS.
  • Social media can also support ENFORCING THE LAW and INTELLIGENCE activities of LEAs.
  • In our interviews and in previous work, we did not find a single LEA that chose to adopt social media and later considered that a bad decision. Instead, we find that organizations that initially only used social media for a particular event or only for a special purpose, later kept using it and adopted in broader ways than originally planned (the German Frankfurt police e.g.only used Facebook temporarily but now runs a permanent Facebook presence at
  • Reasons for LEAs for non-adoption of social media in investigations are restrictions that do not allow to access social media from the workplace. According to Lexisnexis, access is the single biggest driver for non-use in investigations, a factor that has increased from 2012 onwards:
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) introduced social media around 2011 in a bid to engage more meaningfully with the community they serve. PSNI ran a pilot scheme with Facebook pages in a number of areas before rolling out Facebook and Twitter to all Districts in Northern Ireland. There are currently 32 PSNI Facebook accounts and 35 PSNI Twitter accounts. As PSNI’s social media use has developed they have also introduced a corporate Instagram account and a corporate Youtube account. Engagement over the social media channels has grown steadily and PSNI currently have a social media following of 612,805 people in a population of 1.8 million.

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Social media adaptation requires a solid organizational foundation.

Therefore, LEAs prepare themselves by introducing social media strategy, infrastructure, organisation and education.

Image Source: PSNI


When using social media, the question is how to create and organize social media accounts and it is a challenge to develop a wide reach for the accounts.

Therefore, LEAs set up one main account per social network for an organization instead of departmental accounts.

  • Setting up one main account per social network for an organization instead of departmental accounts allows to building a shared follower base. Departmental accounts (e.g. for recruiting) often lack followers and therefore have a limited reach. Main accounts are then used as the central point of communication.
  • As an exception there are also forces that use two accounts, such as the Berlin police force that use an additional Twitter account for cases when when it posts many messages on a of special incident (Compare:,, this is, however, rare.
  • To address specific local issues and create a more personal social media presence, LEAs use a number of TARGETED ACCOUNTS.

Image Source: Pixabay


Effective and efficient social media use requires goals and an action plan.

Therefore, LEAs define a strategy that defines issues, goals and action plans.

  • Like any good strategy a social media strategy should included the following aspects:
    • Analysis of the status quo and identification of the issues to address with social media.
    • Describe goals that are “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound)
    • Policies and a concrete action plan of how to reach these goals
  • While some forces define a strategy before they become active on social media, especially police forces at the forefront of adoption, run experimental projects first, and derive strategy at a later stage.
  • There are several social media police strategy documents, see Social Media DNA book Chapter 6:
  • Based on the strategy, it is possible to develop SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES.

Image Source: PSNI


Social media usage must respect the legal framework of an organization, it might require official approval and is carried out by a larger group of people who might have different ideas and experience how to use it.

Therefore, LEAs create social media policies and guidelines that describes how to act on social media. Policies describe e.g. communication with citizens and legal aspects of investigations.

Image Source: Pixabay


Social media use often requires the integration with existing LEA services, mobile computing, software and real-time information.

Therefore, LEAs update their IT infrastructure and toolbox to enable social media usage.

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The use of social media during the day requires officers to have mobile internet.

Therefore, LEAs equip their officers with smart phones or tablets with mobile internet access.

  • Increasingly LEAs equip every officer with a mobile device.
  • One concept is to make street cops effective on the street:
  • The Guardia Civil in Spain, for example, has deployed 3000 mobile units to allow officers to remotely access vital information at anytime.
  • Some organizations hand out additional devices for social media use. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) uses iPads and iPhones to post and engage on social media. PSNI officers and staff do not have access to social media on their common terminals or through their work issued Blackberry devices. Districts and Departments within PSNI have been responsible for purchasing devices for their own users. PSNI iPads are set up by PSNI ICS (Information Communication Systems) to prevent downloads of unapproved apps. Devices are also enrolled on Airwatch, a system which enables location, remote wiping and remote password reset. A recent issue encountered is that first and second generation iDevices are no longer compatible with current apps resulting in the need to purchase new devices. Ideally PSNI would like to find a long term and cost efficient solution to replacing devices.

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Social media offer the ability to improve internal knowledge exchange and communication.

Therefore, LEAs introduce internal (enterprise) social media solutions that help them share information/knowledge and collaborate internally.

  • In the Netherland Politie+ (NL) is a social intranet, based on open source software platform
  • Others use commercial tool such as Yammer or BlueLine Grid (US).
  • For knowledge storage and sharing, LEAs also use internal police wikis.

Image Source: CC License


Using social media requires new knowledge and skills.

Therefore, LEAs run trainings and have simulated environments to make officers familiar on how to make best use of it.

  • One way of training are simulate postings on social media by creating messages and contents that a LEA would post, e.g. for a TWEETATHON. This allows to review the created messages in terms of content and style. Zurich police prepared their TWEETATHON like that.
  • Aside from internal training, there are Blab video conferences (search blab & police on Twitter):
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) runs social media awareness and Hootsuite training for every social media user. Social media users only receive access to Hootsuite after training is completed. At the time of writing, the PSNI Digital Hub are currently working with District Trainers to design and implement a refresher training package for established social media users. The Digital Hub also anticipate creating practice FB and Twitter pages for social media users to practice in during training sessions.

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In a crisis situation, international public attention can easily exceed server capabilities of a local authority.

Therefore, LEAs use social media channels as an extra communication infrastructure that can handle heavy server loads.

  • For the murder case of Joanna Yeates during Christmas 2010 who first went missing and later was found dead, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary had to deal with high peaks in demand. In that case, the public’s interest overwhelmed rented infrastructure for the website making it inaccessible during peak times. The police therefore chose to use a set of social media networks to publish important information. YouTube served as the network to distribute CCTV footage and asking the public for information. Also the police actively used Twitter and Facebook to communicate. After a first suspect turned out to be uninvolved, the police chose to submit the message, when they had captured the second suspect and collected enough evidence to charge him with the murder, through Twitter. The carefully crafted tweet (“We have charged Vincent Tabak with the murder of Joanna Yeates #joyeates #yeates jo”) went immediately viral and spread across the Internet. Using this set of social media platform allowed the police to be the central voice and remain communicating even in cases when their own website was unreachable. (Source: COMPOSITE Project)
  • In 2011, the Norwegian police used Flickr for image search in the
    Utoya case. Children on that Island could not get through to 112 and the only thing they could do was use Twitter and other means to express their need for help and provide information on the situation.

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For community organizers, it is important to build close and personal relationships with certain stakeholders and citizens.

Therefore, LEAs use social media on a local or personal level (e.g. per district) and in combination with physical meetings, allowing officers to directly connect with the local community and local partners.

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In crisis situations the whereabouts of people can be unknown

Therefore, LEAs use social media to list missing people or account for people.

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Social media offers information to plan a crime, but also a platform to discuss the planning of a crime.

Therefore, criminals use social media to plan attacks and crimes.

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Places and properties affected from the public disorder caused by rioting need cleaning, recovery and restoration.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to organize volunteers in helping to clean help and make contribution to public safety.

Image Source: Twitter/"Beacons of Hope" Paper


In crisis situations there are people seeking resources and other’s who want to provide them.

Therefore, LEAs use social media as a platform that connect seekers with people who can help. People e.g. might look for temporary housing, medical resources, etc. and post such needs. Organizations or individuals providing resources can post that too. There is the danger of such system to be abused by third parties who have other interests (terrorist seeking a place to hide).

  • During the Haiti Earthquake 2010 twitter became a tool for de-central coordination:
    • In: Learning from on-the-ground medical twitterers during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Aleksandra Sarcevic, Leysia Palen, Joanne White, Kate Starbird, Mossaab Bagdouri and Kenneth Anderson.
  • During the Munich 2016 shooting, public transport was stopped and people from outside the city could not leave and needed a place to stay. Through twitter, people offered their homes for temporary stays.

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Social media creates a worldwide platform to spread any opinion, thought, threat or other information that can change people's minds and hearts.

Therefore, criminals use social media to spreading lies on purpose to do harm or influence certain people or general opinion.

Image Source: Pixabay


Sometimes LEAs need to interact with a special target group.

Therefore, LEAs use social media and special applications to interact with groups like students or refugees.

  • Informing refugees: Refugees need info and guidelines during their movement routes and settlement procedure for their own and overall public safety.Mercy Corps, in partnership with Google, The International Rescue Committee and other colleagues, developed, a multilingual website for refugees moving through Europe. The multilingual website includes all relevant information and is the default landing web page on wifi hotspots in refugee camps. It uses current information and the geo location of the person to provide relevant information. The site provides information about common milestones on the route, including registration and asylum processes, emergency contacts, currency details and where to find water, lodging, medical care and other local services. The website is the first thing people see when they connect to the Wi-Fi hotspots many partners host throughout the region. It can detect the location of the person accessing the site, and it’s updated daily to reflect constant shifts in conditions and laws, like restrictions on movements and refugee camp closures.
  • StudentAlert: During the introduction week for new students in Groningen, the Netherlands (KEI-week) in 2016, the Dutch police set up a WhatsApp number (StudentAlert) to provide the students during this period with information on security issues that are important to them. (
  • Beach Alert: WhatsApp number for people that go to the beach and want to be informed or engage with police through WhatsApp.
  • Pokemon Go neighbourhood watch and
  • is a website and youtube channel specifically aimed at youth. Well known vloggers help launch the website on “Vloggers vragenvuur”:

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Social media contain a large amount of data that might be relevant to public security.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to gather intelligence.

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Social media accounts are susceptible to misuse.

Therefore, criminals use social media to steal identities and commit fraud or other criminal activities.

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Personal interaction requires a smaller community of people to address.

Therefore, LEAs set up local accounts or specific channels/platforms to address a smaller community. Often, these accounts are related to a district of a city or a specific group of people (e.g. students).

  • The Greater Manchester Police has been an early adopter of using local accounts. You can find the list of their accounts here:
  • In the Netherlands there are the following categories of accounts:
    • Neighbourhood accounts (Twitter, Facebook at minimum, sometimes YouTube or Instagram).
    • Then there are Twitcop accounts, some 2000+ accounts per local unit, sometimes just one neighbourhood twitcop, sometimes a combined account of 2 or three cops. Twitcops (Dutch National Police, Research on community/neighbourhood officers using Twitter can also be found in the MEDIA4SEC deliverables D1.2.
    • Then there are Theme accounts (on themes as burglaries, etc). Those are just police accounts.
    • Public prosecution also has accounts per region, sometimes a public prosecutor has a personal account and there are some theme accounts (such as human trafficking for example)
    • Learn more: (page 65)
    • There are also account for special purposes: for example police helicopters have Twitter account (because people were complaining about the noise, they now tell on Twitter why they fly out). Other police, such as UK or US also have special accounts, for a K9 unit, or sometimes even the dogs or a horse has a social media account… (to improve the image) –
  • Police Service Of Northern Ireland 32 Facebook accounts which include accounts for 30 local policing areas, a Roads Policing account and a corporate PSNI Facebook account. There are 35 Twitter accounts which include accounts for 30 local policing areas, a corporate account, a Roads Policing account, an Air Support account and accounts for the Chief Constable and one of our Assistant Chief Constables.
    Initially Facebook accounts for each of the areas were set up as pages and ‘ghost’ Facebook profiles enabled users to post to pages however an issue was identified when the PSNI could not discern which user was posting to the page. Facebook also actively seek out ghost profiles and delete them, meaning that access to the pages was constantly at risk. This led to the introduction of social media management tool, Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows PSNI social media to be managed centrally. PSNI officers and staff have no access to social media through their common terminals so can only use their PSNI issue mobile devices (ipads or iphones). Social media is not accessible to users through their work mobile phones (Blackberrys) and they are not allowed to use their personal devices. Hootsuite is available on mobile devices on an app or mobile desktop version. The two versions feature different functions so PSNI social media users have to switch between app and mobile desktop to get full functionality.
    The mobile desktop version is not easily viewed or used on a mobile phone. Complaints from officers who previously had access to the native FB and Twitter apps are frequent while users who have only used Hootsuite are rare. PSNI conducted a survey on Facebook and Twitter last year to ask the public in Northern Ireland what they wanted from PSNI social media. The majority of people surveyed indicated that they preferred a local police social media presence which provided local information about crime and police activities in the area they lived in. Local police officers and staff are trained to post on their local social media sites, ensuring that the community are engaging with their local police.
  • The Zurich city police has introduced two social media cops in 2016, the first German-posting online community policing cops:
  • In the Netherlands, there are accounts for helicopter: and for special units such as the K9 unit: Dogs (from K9 units) have accounts, too or sometimes or horses from units, such as (search twitter for police dogs).

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High volumes of unstructured data and traffic are generated from various social media before, during and after an event or an emergency incident period.

Therefore, LEAs use software tools for data analytics for unstructured data with machine learning that lets you search and analyze text, image, audio, and video from virtually any source uncovering trends, patterns and relationships.

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On social media it appears you can say anything to anyone, also with bad intentions.

Therefore, criminals use social media to threaten their victims (e.g. with the release of private information or pictures) and ask for ransoms.

Image Source: Youtube, Polizei NRW


Public security organizations need to attract young talent.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to reach and attract young applicants.

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Social media provide various ways of empowering citizens.

Therefore, citizens use social media to address issues of their concern.

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On social media, and particularly with a digital lifestyle, anyone can be found and harassed.

Therefore, criminals can stalk their victims on social media or through social media find these persons in real life.

Image Source: Pixabay


Given the influence that social media have on public safety, it is important to take care of the state of social media in terms of public safety and to react on remarks and complaints of citizens.

Therefore, LEAs set up a special team to monitor social media to provide service to citizens and influence the online space (and sentiment).

  • Related Patterns:
  • This is also has been used in controversial ways, where LEAs together with volunteer citizens, generate online narrative themes related to a transnational protest in order to frame or silence oppositional claims of protest activists and police collective actions.

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Citizens may oppose actions of government or issues in society.

Therefore, citizens use social media to organise protests or mass gatherings.

Image Source: Thomas-Gabriel Rüdiger


More and more children can be found (videos and pictures) or are active on social media with their accounts (although social media providers have age restrictions).

Therefore, criminals use social media to get in contact with children for pedocriminal behaviour.

Image Source: reddit


On social media, especially in crisis situations, rumors easily spread.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to refute rumors, as they have a strong voice in social media that other refer to as a trusted source.

  • During the UK Riots in 2011 a large part of the communication has been to refute rumours.
    • In: Sebastian Denef, Petra Saskia Bayerl, and Nico Kaptein (2013): Social Media and the Police—Tweeting Practices of British Police Forces during the August 2011 Riots. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Paris, France, April 27–May 2, 2013). CHI’13. New York, NY: ACM Press.
  • Boston Marathon: fingering the wrong persons. See and specifically:
  • Shooting Munich 2016: Police clarified several misleading and wrong information about additional attacks.
  • A rumour annotation tool with tweets, developed for the Ferguson, Missouri, USA unrest in August 2014, enabling annotators to read through the tweets and annotate them as being rumours or norumours.
    • In: Best practice referred in academic literature : ‘Zubiaga, A., Liakata, M., Procter, R., Bontcheva, K. & Tolmie, P., 2015-Towards detecting rumors in social media’
  • Hoaxmap (Germany):
  • Social Media Verification handbook
  • FEMA rumour control center:
  • The West Midlands Police Force use social media, primarily Twitter, to counter rumours. They for instance tweeted officers standing outside the station to fight a rumour of an attack on their police station.
    • In: Bartlett J., Miller C. (2013), @metpoliceuk How Twitter is changing modern policing the case of the Woolwich Aftermath. London: Demos.

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Citizens are offended by other citizens, companies or government activity and want to correct the wrong.

Therefore, citizens respond through coordinated retaliation on digital media, including mobile devices and social media platforms.

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Anyone can post any material almost anonymously on social media, and some platforms have little restrictions

Therefore, criminals distribute explicit videos without the consent of the victims.

Image Source: Politie Eenheid Rotterdam


LEAs need to inform citizens.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to spread information to citizens directly through social media.

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Trust and credibility are key to the work of law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to influence and manage the reputation of their organisation.

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Authorities can be slow, limited or unwilling to make investigations.

Therefore, citizens use public sources to investigate and put together the pieces of information that is (publicly) available.

Image Source: BURGERNET


In various cases, there is information that is time critical for citizens.

Therefore, LEAs use tools to inform citizens about time critical information. This allows to inform citizens fast, even when there is no or only a slow response by public security organizations. It also allows to overcome linguistic problems and is available for citizens with disabilities.

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In crisis situations, people might worry about the situation.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to communicate actions that have been taken to restore public safety and respond to social media sentiments.

Image Source: facebook


Authorities can be slow in adopting social media.

Therefore, citizens provide security relevant information to other citizens by themselves.

Image Source: Hanover Police


Normally news media reports different on law enforcement activities. LEA's would like to tell their own story. This can stimulate the (in)formal relation between citizens and your organization and make it more humane.

Therefore, LEA's communicate the human side of daily experiences and share a more personal picture of their work.

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Social media can support law enforcement activities.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to discover people who violate the law or seem to intend to do so.

Image Source: Hans van Vliet


Citizens might not feel safe or well protected in their neighbourhood.

Therefore, citizens organise their own neighbourhood watch, supported by social media use, e.g. WhatsApp groups and specific apps.

Image Source: Police Valencia


People don’t know the risks of social media for their safety.

Therefore, LEAs offers education, partciularly to children and parents to use the internet in a responsible way.

Image Source: Alertcops


People are used to use social media to communicate with each other and to contact and interact with organizations. Also for reporting crime, crime tips or other relevant information.

Therefore, LEAs use social media channels such as apps or Twitter (DM's) to have people submit information about incidents or crimes.

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Open data allows citizens to make sense of information for their own purposes.

Therefore, citizens collect and store data, sometimes map it, and distribute and share it to make it useful for a specific context.

Image Source: Sebastian Denef


Citizens have little insight into what government organizations are doing.

Therefore, LEAs, for a defined time period (usually 24h), post a lot of what they are doing on twitter (and what they typically would not report).

  • For a defined time period (usually 24h), LEAs post a lot of what they are doing on twitter (and what they typically would not report).
  • This can also be used to draw attention to a special topic (e.g. reporting on a certain type of theft). Typically, organizations post several hundred messages in this time period and run a press campaign.
  • This also works to promote novel social media channels. A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY is very helpful. This has been done by e.g. the Manchester Police Force, Zurich Police Force, Berlin Police Force, PSNI
  • There is also a global initiative: and

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Social media provide a sense of what is going on for public security planners (before, during or after incidents for example).

Therefore, LEAs monitor social media on various security topics.

  • LEAs monitor social media for threats, incidents, rumours and other critical information.
  • Monitoring is done at local, regional, national and international levels to improve situational awareness. See report:
  • Monitoring is done as an early warning mechanism, during incidents and for monitoring the effects of LEA actions.
  • LEAs use (clusters of) keywords and/or geographic searches on open soclal media sources to understand what’s going on and monitor theme, location or event based threats.
  • During events, LEAs use tools to analyse mood and sentiments. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, regularly monitors social media for large scale events. The PSNI use Hootsuite Insights, Facebook and Twitter.
  • In the Netherlands, there is the Social Media Firework monitor
  • LEAs also monitor social media memes that might become a threat on an ad hoc basis: such as Project X, FireChallenge, Planking, etc.
  • LEAs also monitor social media for death threats:
  • A special type of monitoring is INCIDENT MONITORING
  • This practice is can be performed using real-time social media monitoring and real-time contents.
    • In the Netherlands, there is a Live Social Media Safety Monitor (wijkmonitor)
    • Live streaming video services, such as Periscope, also allow for monitoring
  • The UK started an initiative to monitor social media for hate crime: 
  • Monitoring is related to the following patterns:

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Social media allow each individual to broadcast and share a situation that otherwise nobody reports about.

Therefore, citizens report news themselves, e.g. by using live streaming video applications to create situational awareness for other citizens and also other governmental agencies.

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Spreading preventive information can improve public security.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to share information to explain citizens how to increase their safety.

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In crisis situations, social media is used by local and remote people. In order to create situational awareness it is important to distinguish between local and remote sources.

Therefore, LEAs identify people posting from the ground or use algorithms that can identify this behaviour.

  • A low-tech solution is to identify and list people who are known to post post from the ground. Algorithms can help to identify and distinguish local sources from the overall social media conversation around a topic.
    • In: Learning from the Crowd: Collaborative Filtering Techniques for Identifying On-the-Ground Twitterers during Mass Disruptions. Kate Starbird, Grace Muzny, Leysia Palen.

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Authorities can act outside the law.

Therefore, citizens use social media to watch und publicly share LEAs actions.

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Citizens have questions for law enforcement agencies but typically do not ask, because it is cumbersome to do so.

Therefore, LEAs answer citizen question in special (mostly chat) sessions and provide answers to frequently asked questions online or through an app.

  • Ask the Police (UK): Website and app information resource containing answers to a wide variety of the general public’s most frequently asked policing questions. “The website provides links to relevant national organisations plus the facility to rate the answer and email a specific question directly which will be answered within 24 working hours. Police forces are able to input additional local police information and advice for the benefit of their communities.” (Source:
  • The website in the Netherlands, includes chatrooms and almost weekly theme sessions on certain crime types.
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) run Twitter hours where the public can ask questions and seek advice from police. The most regular Twitter hour is with the Chief Constable @ChiefConPSNI, using the hashtag #AskChiefCon. These are run twice a year. Other command teams at District Level also run their own twitter hours.
  • The Belgian @CrisisCenterBE was replying to citizens during the Brussels bombing and at the same time would used Twitter and Facebook to spread valuable information for 2-4 weeks after the attacks.

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LEAs need to know the developments of an incident.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to monitor ongoing incidents or events.

  • LEAs also creating hashtags for incidents as a way of channelling information.
  • Commercial offerings support incident monitoring
    • Twitcident/PublicSonar
  • LEAs can create ‘dropboxes’ for incidents, such as LEEDIR ( or micromapping software such as Ushahidi.
  • The Belgian Province of Walloon Brabant has sealed a partnership with VISOV, a French-speaking Virtual Operations Support Team #VOST to provide them with support during a crisis in terms of: sorting and detection of relevant images, analysis of the general public’s crisis perception and behaviour, spatialisation via geo-targeting and diffusion of official messages.

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Seeing physical locations of crimes can help to understand safety issues.

Therefore, LEAs provide digital maps and share these on social media to point to crimes.

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Civil servants can use social media in ways that are illegal or do not follow policies.

Therefore, LEAs monitors the social media activities of their own people.

  • Police forces that run TARGETED ACCOUNTS are following and monitoring these accounts to check whether the contents follow the policies and regulations.

Image Source: Instagram/dailymail


Social media offers a cheap and sometimes anonymous way to let others know how 'bad' you are."

Therefore, criminals (gangs mostly) use social media for bragging.

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In special cases LEAs need to interact with selected audiences.

Therefore, LEAs uses Facebook advertising to reach specific target audiences.

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Large events require organizers to manage crowds.

Therefore, LEAs use social media to manage crowds.

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Social Media enables targeted actions towards those susceptible for joining a criminal gang or activity (crime sourcing).

Therefore, criminals use social media to recruit new members to their gangs or organizations.

Image Source: Sebastian Denef / Boudewijn Mayeur


Citizens spend more and more of their time in various online spaces.

Therefore, LEAs understand social media as a public space in which they need to patrol to have a visible presences that ensures that the online space is not free of laws.

  • Boudewijn Mayeur of the Politie Limburg-Zuid in the Netherlands has been running a virtual police station in Habbo Hotel, a social game network, frequented by children.
  • Finish police forces have been one of the first to have police forces that are dedicated to patrol the online space.
  • The Zurich police force started in 2016 to have two officers who spend 50% of their time in online networks.
  • This practice is an emerging practice that is not practiced by all police forces yet.

Image Source: Twitter/Polizei München


Crisis situations require LEAs to in-form citizens promptly.

Therefore, LEAs prepare for crisis situations by developing message templates they can use in crises situations.

  • The city police in Zurich has prepares for sending messages in multiple languages in order to inform citizens and visitors of the city in case of an emergency situation.
  • Police forces use the riots in Manchester and the 2016 shooting in Munich as examples of the messages they need to share in times of crisis.
  • Before the 2011 riots, the police in Manchester had prepared contents for sending in case of backfires on social media.