The MEDI@4SEC project focuses upon understanding the opportunities, challenges and ethical considerations of enhancing social media use for public security: the good, the bad and the ugly. The good comprises using social media for problem solving, fighting crime, decreasing fear of crime and increasing the quality of life. The bad is the increase of digitised criminality and terrorism with new phenomena emerging through the use of social media. The ugly comprises the grey areas where trolling, cyberbullying, threats, or live video-sharing of tactical security operations are phenomena to deal with during 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.
The first report identifies the state-of -the-art of the use social media not only by police and other public security planners but also by criminals (as this group is very active in applying new possibilities). It includes an analysis of current academic research on social media and security, a dark web study and red-teaming expert opinion (viewing the problem from the criminal perspective) as well as existing EU funded research across a number of linked domains. The review is focused around the impact of social media upon a range of public security tasks – 1) communication and engagement, 2) emergency services and crisis management, 3) surveillance, 4) criminal investigations, 5) community policing and 6) intelligence ? that identify the challenges and opportunities for the actors responsible for the security in the public domain.
The introduction of social media in the domain of public security has shown differences in the conditions required for success. Many police organizations adopting social media, consider the usage very fruitful for different purposes in both the operational police tasks, e.g. investigation, crowd control (Knibbs, 2013), organizational purposes and reputation (Jamieson, 2016) and recruitment (De Smet, 2012). The review highlights that entrepreneurship – employees trying new things within the organization – is crucial for the experimentation with social media as is the need for a coherent strategy for and training in the correct usage of social media, conducting organizational goals and sufficient ICT necessary for successful implementation of social media (Mauritz 2011). Furthermore, the more social media are used the more effect and the more response can be expected, which also helps to gain more interaction (De Smet, 2012). Social media usage, in this sense, is self-perpetuating, but must be undertaken with care. Here the tone of the messages is important. Messages sent from a central account should be more formal, messages sent from a personal police officer account should be more informal. However, this is a fine line (Foster, 2016). Importantly, engagement requires not only sending information, but also two-way communication.
The use of social media has both brought forward tremendous benefits as well as challenges. Being present on social media and using data from social media takes a lot of?time, which conflicts with cutting in police-budgets. A second challenge is the large amount of different types of social media which have different characteristics and lead to people being spread over different digital places. Furthermore, anonymity of social media brings up challenges of trust and privacy, because it is not clear who did what and to know if something is trustworthy or not.
In this report we illuminate these challenges and opportunities through a number of different themes that showcases the ways social media are used and have an increasingly prominent role in, or impact on, public security.
The six themes we explore in depth are:
1. DIY policing: citizens employing social media for criminal investigation, crime prevention or ensuring public security independent of police. Citizens taking initiative/taking over police tasks.
DIY policing questions the general division of responsibilities and legitimate power between citizens and law enforcement agencies. The key questions for many security planners are about where and how to cooperate with citizens, when to take control and how to avoid negative effects. We highlight how, on the one hand, we see citizens taking coordinated action in places where public security falls short or fails. This leads to the question: can DIY policing become a factor for public security organizations to use in targeting where their resources are best deployed and where citizens can aid their operations? On the other hand, it appears that some (especially Dutch) police forces have taken these concerted efforts in co-creating safety jointly with citizens. The many platforms and initiatives that were studied, underline the Dutch forerunner role in encouraging DIY activities. DIY policing does raise a range of delicate ethical questions. Empowered citizens have the means to fight injustice and produce desirable change, while at the same time, they can also create great harm when acting irresponsibly.
2. Riots and mass gatherings: the role of social media (data) during riots and mass gatherings and ensuring public security by monitoring, signalling and communicating with the public.
The rapid adoption of social media has enabled social movements and mass gatherings in two ways: 1) in organization and coordination of the event itself, and 2) by providing wider exposure that leads to increased participation. This report shows that policing of riots and mass gatherings is a critical issue for law enforcement agencies that poses key question. How to re-invent the current policing paradigm to incorporate new tools, organizational structures, staff, policies and technological infrastructure to support the use of social media in such situations? Here the focus should be on both, monitoring potential mass gatherings on social media as well as preparing for one and communicating with community. Moreover, in such instances it is vital to advance a communication strategy to ensure the uniform use of social media by authorities in a positive, friendly, instructive and helpful tone to promote citizen engagement, collaboration and trust. Such interactive communication can provide a substantial resource for situation awareness but should be done in an ethically aware way.
3. Everyday security: the everyday policing of public security, including cooperation with citizens via social media ?community policing? and social media/big data intelligence.
The recent massive increase in social media use has drastically transformed people?s communication and information habits, and provides authorities with new opportunities for intelligence sources and platforms to communicate. These new opportunities raise numerous questions, for instance, in what ways do the data and tools available through social media influence the work of intelligence services and LEA?s? How do local authorities use social media to facilitate and enhance their local crime prevention strategies? Or, how can community policing initiatives supported by social media contribute to the everyday management of security? One of the main challenges for law enforcement agencies using social media in policing is the adoption of formal policies and processes within agencies that enable a unified, consistent approach to modern technology usage. Incorporating specialized staff, budget dedicated to innovation and defining a clear legal framework and procedural protocols, become a priority for the agencies and policy planners in the public security domain.
4. The Dark web: organised (international) crime and their high-tech use of the dark web, the influence on public security, and the counter policing activities.
Historically, technology has revolutionized policing practices but it has also facilitated criminality with the Dark Web emerging as a key space for ?high tech? (organized) cybercrimes. The analysis presented in this report raises a number of issues which should be taken into account in the discussion on policing against Dark Web: Should policies rely on flexible and adaptable innovations, to avoid limited applicability in a cybercrime community that is capable of rapidly quickly develop countermeasures? Furthermore, there should be no ?size-fits-all? measures: strategies should differentiate between the types of crime, nor should there are ?total-block? strategies: policies should seek balance between freedom of speech and crime facilitation. In the case of cryptomarket-related crimes, how to be able to tackle the ecosystem, instead of single targets, and focus on the demand first, instead of the vendors side only with strategies that focus on the ?economical game?? Moreover, with violent extremism, how to set out strategies that focus on the producers, rather than on the consumers of extremist material? And also, how to empower the ?good? and the ?grey? users with spaces for open debate that allows extremisms to be blended and debated? Finally, what are the options of applying social media strategies from the Clear Web to the Dark Web, being aware of the differences between the two digital dimensions?
5. Trolling: all kinds of online bullying (cyberbullying), of which some activities are criminal offences and some or not.
Trolling broadly understood includes cyberbullying, cyberhate, cyberstalking, cyberharassment, revenge porn, sextortion, naming and shaming and flaming. The legal status of all the trolling-related acts just listed differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from act to act. An impressive and varied array of preventive, counter-trolling, and criminal justice approaches to combatting trolling are currently employed by public security providers broadly understood. While the literature suggests that organic, community-driven counter-trolling actions are cheaper, faster, more effective and more responsive to trolling than actions of public authorities, these cannot substitute the strong arm of the law in cases of serious harassment, stalking, and abuse of individuals online. There is some current literature examining the nexus between online and offline abuse, but this is scant and rudimentary. Further research in this area would be beneficial to public security providers and victims of trolling.
6. Innovative market solutions: new commercial products for including social media in police work. For example apps for smartphones, social media monitoring tools etc.
To digest, analyse, expand and share the valuable information on social media to the domain of public security and policing, constant innovations are required in order to meet these needs. An innovative market solutions focus on social media and applications used, aiming to increase the effectiveness of public authorities, with fast and accessible formats. From tweets to serious gaming, social media have pushed public security and policing to advance their investigative processes as well as their interaction with citizens. One key question that arises is what can be done to facilitate communication between the supply of and demand for new innovative social-media solutions? Furthermore, how can the training of public security planners in social media use be facilitated by new innovations? Overall, one of the most important question with new technology solutions is, how do we balance between security and rights in advancing new security? Solutions should advance, but the respect of personal data must advance as well. Data protection regulations have opened a new market dealing with the protection of data and their potential misuse. This raises questions like; what are the challenges with data been collected from third parties? And should there be pan-European requirements for the usage of that data? Ethical and societal considerations thus need to be at the forefront of new solutions; security cannot be above the law.
The questions, challenges and opportunities raised in this report provide insight for future research, and will be the focus of the upcoming policy and practice workshops in the MEDI@4SEC project.
The full report: