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UK: Police Using Social Media to Address Public Order Issues
Source: publicservice.co.uk
Source Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Country: Europe
Created: Nov 08, 2011

Police forces are taking steps to make better use Twitter, Facebook and other social networks in public order situations, Home Office minister James Brokenshire has said after concerns were raised in August about the potential of social media as a tool for co-ordinating criminal activity and public unrest.

In an interview with Publicservice.co.uk on cyber security issues, Brokenshire said the government "certainly believe in freedom across social networking", adding that "people should be able to express themselves".

But he warned there was a need to bring "those who cause harm to justice", adding that through collaboration government, law enforcement and industry were "very much upping our game".

Brokenshire said police were taking steps to ensure information on social networks could be interpreted so that law enforcement could "establish what is going on", something he said had been a positive outcome of meetings with social media companies.

And the minister said sites like Twitter were becoming useful tools to engage with the public during "fast moving" situations.

"Police and law enforcement have used social networking very positively to communicate information, to be able to deal with questions that may be being posed in a fast moving situation [and] to be able to help manage public situations," he said.

"So there are real benefits that social networks can provide to police and law enforcement in terms of imparting information as well as ensuring that we are interpreting and analysing information to help police to be to deal with public order situations. That is something that I know that the police are taking forward."

After the August riots in the UK David Cameron said it was important to ask "whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality". Shortly afterward the Met police also admitted that they had considered a social media "switch off".

The government has since repeatedly insisted it is not looking to block social networks.
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