Sunday, October 25, 2015

Challenges of Social Media for Pakistan Police:
Implications and Way Forward

Use of social networking sites by people of Pakistan especially its youth has grown exponentially in recent years, being part of global trend. The development has thrown several challenges to the Pakistan Police that needs to appreciate its implications in predicting, preventing, detecting and investigating crimes for maintenance of law and order. By integrating social medial  strategies  in its  methodology,  Police can  leverage  upon  the  opportunities  offered  by  social  media  apart  from tackling  the  challenges  it  poses.  Monitoring of social media content has become necessary in the backdrop of its misuse in certain recent incidents in Pakistan like the rape of a young girl in Faisalabad or mob attacks on Christian community after exchange of messages in Gujranwala city.  Police  hierarchies  in  several  countries  have  already  adopted a  comprehensive  and  integrated  approach  to  use  social  media  for  their advantage  and  Pakistan  Police  can  ill  afford  to  ignore  this  powerful  media.

Computers, worldwide web (WWW) and I-phone have changed the way we collaborate, interact and share information with each other. The online interaction is not bound by the geographical limitations and is entirely in virtual world. Internet abounds with sites that offer facilities for interaction, uploading information, pictures and videos for sharing.  Children and younger generation have been quick to adopt this technology. There are several implications of this socio-technological change for law enforcement organizations.  The broad adoption of social media by the public and the increasing effect that this adaptation has in police work requires police organizations to define and implement strategies for social media. This paper examines the implications of social media revolution for the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan. It further discusses the strategy to deal with the challenges it poses.

Social  Media  is  a  term  used  to  describe  a  variety  of  web-based applications and mobile platforms through which users can generate and share  digital  contents.  The digital  contents  could  be  in  various forms  such  as  text,  picture,  audio,  video,  location  etc.  International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) defines Social Media as a category of Internet-based resources that integrate user generated content and user participation. Another definition of social  network sites is as  web-based  services  that  allow  individuals  to
·       Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system
·       Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection
·       View  and  traverse  their  list  of  connections  and  those  made by others  within  the  system

The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site. Some of the popular social media sites are social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace), micro-blogging sites (Twitter, Nixle), photo- and video-sharing sites (Flickr, YouTube), wikis (Wikipedia), blogs, and news sites (Digg, Reddit).

Social networking services have become highly popular among the children and youth all over the world. They not only allow individuals to meet strangers, but also enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks. They offer unique opportunities in terms of extent, spread, reach, accessibility, immediacy and permanence. Various social media sites have emerged over the years as shown in Table.
 Facebook,  which  started  in  2004,  has  emerged  as  the  largest  social networking  site  with  more  than  1.49  billion  users  in  the  world.  If it was a nation, it would be the third largest. There are more than 900 million unique visits to YouTube every month. There are more than 645 million active registered users on twitter.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network has more than 250 million users. Google has more than 540 million Google + users.
There are reports that efforts are  being  made  by Baloch separatists to network and  revive  militancy  using  social  media.  While Blackberry Messenger (BBM) played an alarming role in the spread of series of riots in London in August 2011, at the same time Twitter was used to mobilize community clean-up operations . In  December  2012,  during  the  demonstrations  related  to gang rape case in Faisalabad, protestors and journalists used social media in  an  unprecedented  way.  The event also  witnessed  flash  mob mobilization using  social  media.  Police  realized  its  shortcomings  in analyzing  and  generating  pre-emptive  actionable  intelligence  from the  rapid  online  postings  as  the  protests  were  escalating. Circulation of an old fake video and rumors about the violence through social media contributed to the fueling of riots. A large number of fake social media accounts of famous personalities, including that of President of Pakistan, have also been bothering the law enforcement agencies. Notwithstanding  the  challenges,  the  unique  characteristics  of  this media  also  offer  several  opportunities  to  law  enforcement  agencies. If  used  judiciously,  these  can  be  leveraged  to  harness  the  power of  information  technology  through  them.  They  are  highly  suitable for  police  to  instantaneously  connect  with  the  public.  They  can  be used for updating police activities, issue press releases, traffic alerts about congestion, special events, diversions, road conditions, crime prevention  advisories,  dispel  rumors,  tracing  suspects  and  missing persons,  emergency  notification,  community  policing,  etc.  They can also be useful in identification of criminals, their activities and locations. The digital evidences of cyber crimes or traditional crimes, internal  Facebook-like  social  networks.  A  secured  social  networking platform can be used internally by the law enforcement departments to efficiently connect with its own officers for professional information sharing,  human  resource  management  and  better  bonding,  as  has been done by Toronto Police Service. In Australia, New South Wales Police  have  added  ‘Project  Eyewatch’  to  their  social  media  strategy under which police work together with their local communities to find solutions to local issues.
Law  enforcement  agencies  can  afford  to  ignore  social  media  but only  to  its  peril.  If  monitored  effectively,  social  networking  sites  can provide resourceful, economical and effective tactical and actionable intelligence. Social networking sites are now one of the most fertile sources of criminal evidence. Social media monitoring and analysis has been in use by business organizations to find the market trends, sentiments, likes and dislikes of customers.
Law  enforcement  agencies  can  also  use  social  networks  as  a  source of information, pattern and event recognition, analyzing public mood and trend. Researches have shown that social media can be utilized to forecast future outcomes. Real time monitoring and analysis of social media can be very useful in unrest anticipation and predicting snap demonstrations. Monitoring social media will also enable police to identify provocative and objectionable contents so that they can be blocked under provisions of laws. Although law enforcement agencies have been late to realize the opportunities offered by social networking sites,  several  police  organizations  have  started  working in  this  direction.  In  2012,  Federal  Bureau  of  Investigation  (FBI)  had floated a ‘Request for Information’ to explore solutions for automated search/monitoring  of  social  media,  generation  of  real-time  alerts  and actionable information,  based  on  select  parameters/Keywords  . In Pakistan, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has set  up  social  media  monitoring  lab under NR3C (National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes).  Quetta Police is  also contemplating such a cell and has floated ·expression of interest for implementation  of  “Open  Source  Intelligence  (OSINT)”  solution. A number of free and paid tools and services are available in the market for monitoring social media. Some of them are Social Mention, Social Snapshots, Twitalyzer, Social Flow, Radarly,  Twazzup,  Addict-o-matic,  Cyber  Alert,  hootsuite,   Accurint,  Geofeedia,  Trendsmap,  Buzzient  and  Twitter  Investigator, XI  Social  Discovery,  Radian,  TweetDeck,  BlueJay  etc. There are software tools for social network analysis for mapping and measuring the links of people/groups on social networks. The approach, functions, coverage, extent, analysis etc. of these tools differ considerably. Since
most of them have been developed for business community, they only partially  meet  the  law  enforcement  requirements.  Studies by Human Digital shows that the social media monitoring tools, available in the market, have limited abilities to effectively deal with both scale and speed  in  unison  to  provide  actionable  intelligence.  A single tool is not able to cater to the wide need of law enforcement agencies and a specifically developed solution is required.  Social media in current times has become a widespread presence that touches the lives of countless people, including law enforcement officers. Certain risks and rewards face officers, as well as their departments, who use social media. Missteps in its use can endanger the safety of officers and compromise criminal cases, resulting not only in embarrassment to departments but exposure to civil and criminal liability. Law enforcement administrators must establish appropriate controls over the use of social media to increase its benefits for their departments and reduce incidents of misuse by officers. This can be accomplished by setting criteria for social media use and training personnel on these policies. In doing so, the potential of social media as a law enforcement tool that can help departments’ better serve the public may fully be realized. Also, Police can learn some tips and tricks about social media from the corporate sector because businesses have already encountered some of the same challenges in this new environment that police departments are now facing. However, police departments are not corporations, businesses nor even run-of-the-mill government agencies; they have unique powers, unique responsibilities and a unique relationship to the public. Police need their own models, their own best practices, and their own discussions and philosophies about how to incorporate social media to achieve their distinct purposes.
This is especially true because the police may have distinct and natural advantages in this area, and the imperatives of social media coincide in important respects with the perennial imperatives of law enforcement. Social media are a means of communication, which is to be found at the center of policing. Social media also draws upon communities and can help to build them; using social media is thus a way for police departments to take community policing into the networked age of Web 2.0. The promise of social media for policing is not to transform or add to the work of law enforcement but to emphasize the deep connection with the community that has always been the focus of good police work. Among the central tenets recognized by social media practitioners is that “to speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities … but first, they must belong to a community.” That is a familiar, even basic idea in law enforcement; it echoes Lord Peel’s enduring principle that “the police are the public and the public are the police.” More than 2,800 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have social media accounts, and all the Provincial Police set-ups in Pakistan have their presence in the internet. But still lot of spade work in terms in infrastructure, policies, rules and laws needs to be completed soon.

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