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.