Social media needs to be policed, to maintain peace and order. However, not to silence the freedom of expression, there are a small minority of people who see social media as a platform for either bulling other users or coordinating antisocial acts. The approach to this policing needs to be careful and considered as many actions could be construed by the masses as a want to control the freedom to express themselves in an uninhibited way. Social media allows people to stay connected in a time when our educational lives and work lives take us further and further from family and friends, grandparents can watch their grandchildren grow even at massive distances. Due to the wide availability and ease of use social media needs to be policed to maintain peace.
Social media has grown in its popularity and use at an exponential rate and with it those who will use it for ill will, it has made things easier for groups such as paedophiles who can now gain access to children in an anonymous manner with the intention of grooming them, it has made communication for terrorist groups easier and the victimisation of individuals and groups who have beliefs or views that another group does not agree with, in June 2014 the BBC reported that complaints originating from social media were making up around half of the calls being passed on to front line officers, this has resulted in 600 police officers being put through training to learn how to better deal with these offences. With so many elements of life moving online line, including but not limited to our shopping, and our communication, it follows that abusive and threatening behaviours have also moved on line. There are suggestions from the police however that some of these incidents could be sorted out sensibly without police involvement, like not being friends on Facebook or other social media sites. (Moore 2014) With this new age of social media a new challenge comes with it, this is to define what behaviour should be considered a crime, police forces are presenting policies with the intention that this will go some way to defining what is acceptable and what is not. Within this there has had to be the consideration of human rights and when and if they are being over stepped. Social Media has given the ability to protesters to quickly organise themselves in real-time, without the ability to monitor these types of communications police could struggle to react appropriately to a group of people, with the ability to monitor these communications there is the ability to gauge the mood of the crowd and if there are threats of violence or criminal intent. Also the ability to monitor these communications means that the police are able to track down victims and or witnesses of mass crime. The police have also had to become aware that everything is shared on social media so are advising their officers to act as though they are being filmed at all times as this is highly like to be the case in many situations. (COPS 2013)
Social media allows information to be shared quickly and to a much larger audience than has ever been possible before, as a majority people are aware what is and what is not acceptable on social media however these unspoken rules for behaviour are not so easily defined in the context of law. The police however are beginning to apply law to the people that are out there with the intention of harming or abusing other people, John Nimmo (no date) Posted a Blog post on word Press reporting he had in fact been jailed for eight weeks for being an internet bully, this experience was a wakeup call he reports, it would seem he is unwilling to repeat the experience, this is not the only story of this kind, there are a good number of stories of people who have had short prison sentences for similar behaviours. It would be reasonable to expect to see changes in the laws that surround social media as the continued growth of its use is seen. It is becoming more and more common for children to be active on these sites, despite the recommended age for many of them is 13 years of age, the UK department of education has produced a document, ‘Advice for parents and carers on cyberbullying’ (2014) informing parents and carers of what to be aware of with their children and cyber bullying, this document has been in circulation less than six months, but there is an understanding now that as technology becomes more and more a part of life children will be exposed to more social media. Ofcom found that the since 2013 the percentage of children with access to a tablet or computer has risen from 51% to 71%. Social media makes it easy to say things we would not necessarily say in a face-to-face situation, especially sites where the users are encouraged to use a pseudonym rather than their true identity. The anonymity of this seems to dilute the understanding of socially acceptable behaviours that a person would have in a real life physical situation. The biggest danger these sites present is the communication and organisation of antisocial groups such as terrorists, as with the protestors this kind of real time communication allows them to be more easily coordinated, it also allows for them to communicate in wider circles, extremist groups are able to communicate and share ideas just as freely as the average person can, the possibilities of the potentials of this are frightening.
The need for the policing of social media outweighs this infringement in the author’s opinion. The need for monitoring the activity on social media is not only important but also vital as a first line of defence for the police. Being able to track movements of antisocial groups that are organising themselves to create unrest or even harm others means the police are able to react to events before they can cause any damage, for the safety of people in general, and to keep the peace of the country it is necessary to police social media.
COPS. “Social Media and Tactical considerations for Law Enforcment” U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Washington, (2013) Ploiceforum.org. Web April 2015
Moore, Keith.” Social media 'at least half' of calls passed to front-line police”. BBC Radio 4's Law in Action. (2014) BBC News. Web April 2015
Nimmo, John. “My experience as a convicted twitter bully” Word Press. (no date) Word Press Web April 2015
Ofcom. “Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report” Ofcom (2014) ofcon.org.uk. Web April 2015