SMILE is the largest conference on the use of social media. Jose Diego represented MEDIA4SEC at this year’s event in Long Beach, California and discovered the international appeal of our project’s work. Here he outlines the conference and MEDIA4SEC’s unique insights.
If you want to learn about social media use in policing the SMILE conference is the event to attend. With its strapline of “Using Social Media to Improve Law Enforcement and Engage Citizens”, SMILE encapsulates the issues we are examining here through MEDI@4SEC. This year’s event did not fail to deliver on these expectations. Over 200 police officers and public security professionals from more than 10 countries shared experiences of beneficial practices and successful cases. This included areas of communication and engagement with the public, the potential value of social media during investigations and the ability to analyse and exploit of the information and data it provides.
Many of the themes explored are familiar to those already engaged in MEDI@4SEC. For example, building community trust was stated as a must and in meeting this objective it was suggested that the production of attractive video content was helpful. Delegates discussed the difficulties in reaching specific community groups and how social media might be employed to assist in this (a theme partners in this project have previously explored). In terms of the platforms used Twitter and Facebook are currently the most favoured for community policing proposes but the use of other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat has been growing and is proving effective in meeting policing needs. And whilst the use of social media during crises is difficult to plan in advance it is widely acknowledged as a necessary tool to be deployed. These continue to be explored in our project and will make a valuable contribution to the discussions in the USA and other countries.
But it was also clear that the European perspective that MEDIA4SEC offers contrasting views and unique insights. For example, whilst the investigative potential of DIY Policing has been recognised amongst some police forces the limits and long term consequences of it were not deeply addressed. Despite our own relatively recent understanding of this topic, MEDIA4SEC has been able to contribute useful accounts of This is where we have been able to provide more detailed understanding
Another area to which the audience were responsive was the participation of police forces in research activities. Delegates acknowledged the need for research to inform their development of strategies and procedures in successfully deploying social media. Experience in the US suggested that partnerships between police forces, industry and academia have not been as successful as hoped. Therefore MEDIA4SEC – and other European projects – were welcomed not just for the knowledge they provide but as examples of how multi-stakeholder research can be carried out.
Through our participation at the SMILE Conference a channel of EU-USA collaboration has been opened and we look forward to developing it further through the MEDIA4SEC project and the wider MEDIA4SEC Community.