Shining a blue light on social media‘s impact on public safety and security

There is an urgent need to bring together communities, policing and policy makers to tackle how social media can be better utilised to tackle crime and the fear of crime, how they can protect individuals and communities from the dark side of social media while at the same time preserving the freedoms offered by that social media.

The use of social media within policing is developing fast but it is vital they are used in the right way, legally and ethically. A recent media expose of how Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provided data access for surveillance products sold to law enforcement agencies in the US which explicitly targeted activists and protestors of colour, provides a stark example of how social media can be misused.

MEDI@4SEC – The Emerging Role of New Social Media in Enhancing Public Security – focuses upon understanding the opportunities, challenges and ethical consideration of enhancing social media use for public security: the good, the bad and the ugly. Social media offers many good things for society including opportunities for problem solving, fighting crime, decreasing fear of crime and increasing the quality of life. However the bad can feed into the increase of digitized criminality and terrorism. The ugliest, darkest digital corners can include: trolling, cyberbullying, threats, the dark web, and even unhelpful live video-sharing of police and security operations during security incidents. Making use of the possibilities that social media offer, including smart ‘work-arounds’ is key, while respecting privacy, legislation, and ethics. This changing situation raises a series of challenges and possibilities for public security planners that the project will explore through a series of communication and dissemination activities. These activities will engage extensively with a range of end-users to better understand the usage of social media for security activities.

The technological, social and policy environments within which public safety and urban security are delivered are dynamic and fast moving. The consortium will begin its work by bringing a wide range of police organisations, security professionals and policy makers together with local communities and social media users in a series of workshops. These will consider a number of issues including community engagement in public security, the dark web, trolling, riots and mass gatherings and DIY policing. In particular MEDI@4SEC will develop a clearer understanding of how social media can and cannot be used for public security purposes and highlight the ethical, legal and data-protection considerations when it is employed.

The primary goal of the project is to build and develop the MEDI@4SEC Community. MEDI@4SEC is informed by research but grounded by the experiences of real life practitioners and it will only be a success through the active and continued engagement of a wide range of stakeholders including law enforcement agencies, security organisations and social media user.  Therefore MEDI@4SEC welcomes your contributions and invites you to become part of our ongoing conversation. To find out how follow us on Twitter (@media4sec) and join our LinkedIn group. For further information about the project visit our about pages.



Jon Coaffee

MEDI@4SEC Project Co-ordinator
University of Warwick

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