Image Source: CC license by https://www.flickr.com/photos/atomictaco/7960716222
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 www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/ 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.