Law Enforcement Monitoring Of Social Media

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As law enforcement professionals, we rely on social media for a variety of purposes, from disseminating information to building relationships with the public. However, when it comes to social media monitoring, there are many different ways to approach things. This can be difficult to determine which method is best for your team, as each situation may require a different approach. That’s where our social media monitoring guide comes in. We’ve collected tips and advice from top law enforcement officials who have used social media monitoring to great effect. So whether you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve or just want some general guidance, this guide is for you!

Law Enforcement Monitoring Of Social Media

There are a number of social media sites that are available to law enforcement officials. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The most popular social media sites for law enforcement are Facebook and Twitter. The three main functions of these sites are as follows:

Facebook is a social networking site that can be used to communicate with friends and family, share photos and videos, and connect with other officers.

Twitter is a microblogging site that can be used to tweet about events or topics related to law enforcement.

Instagram is a photo sharing website that can be used to share images of police officers, Crime Scene Units (CSU), evidence processing operations, or any other law enforcement related activity.

YouTube is an online video sharing website that can be used to upload videos of law enforcement activities.

How do police monitor social media?

To begin with, how do the police watch social media? Most commonly, an officer views publicly available posts by searching for an individual, group, hashtag, or another search vector. Depending on the platform and the search, it may yield all of the content responsive to the query or only a portion. When seeking access to more than is publicly available, police may use an informant (such as a friend of the target) or create an undercover account by posing as a fellow activist or alluring stranger. This allows officers to communicate directly with the target and see content posted by both the target and their contacts that might otherwise be inaccessible to the public.

Police have also used software to monitor people, groups, associations, or locations in a more automated manner. This software included tools that mapped clusters of activity and a platform for linking undercover accounts. This tactic is less common now after the major platforms prohibited app developers from receiving automated access to public content for surveillance.

Dataminr, the prominent social media analytics firm, appears to have found a partial workaround to this prohibition by providing police with “public sector alerts.” Dataminr’s automated systems analyze public data feeds and deliver automated alerts to law enforcement clients, including the FBI, about shootings and natural disasters. It is unclear whether law enforcement can customize the service to go beyond the types of alerts included in Dataminr’s marketing material.

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Law enforcement may also request social media data as part of a criminal investigation. By deploying subpoenas and warrants, law enforcement can collect an array of data directly from social media companies. For example, a template warrant drawn up by the Department of Justice to serve on Facebook contemplates collecting an array of data, including contact information, photos, status updates, private messages, friends lists, group affiliations, “friend” requests, future and past event postings, privacy settings, and more.

Social media monitoring is pervasive. According to a 2017 survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 70% of responding police departments use social media for intelligence gathering and to monitor public sentiment. Similarly, Facebook’s latest transparency report states that the company received over 50,000 government requests for data between July and December 2019.

How to Monitor Social Media for Law Enforcement

When it comes to monitoring social media for law enforcement, there are a few things you can do. You can choose to monitor all of the posts from a specific platform, or you can focus on a few key areas.

For example, if you’re working with a crime scene unit, you may want to focus on posts about the scene and any arrests made. Alternatively, if you’re working with the public, you might want to focus on posts that show support for your agency or local police department.

Use the Tools to Monitor the Posts

One way to keep track of law enforcement activity on social media is to use social media monitoring tools. This includes programs like Fiverr or Upworthy that allow usersto quickly find and analyze Law Enforcement-related content. You can also use sites like Google Alerts or Twitter DM features to get alerted when new information related to law enforcement is posted online.

Analyze the Posts for Law Enforcement Activity

Once you have a list of posts that interest you, it’s time to start analyzing them for potential law enforcement activity. One method is using filters: You can set up filters that specificize what kind of content is being reported (such as arrest information), or that limit the number of results per page (so only relevant posts are shown). Additionally, you can use keywords and other search terms in order to find specific posts more easily.

Stay Up-to-Date on Law Enforcement Activity on Social Media

By staying up-to-date on law enforcement activity on social media, you can be prepared for any potential emergencies that may arise while traveling abroad or during your workweek at home. regularly checking back into social media will help make sure that any updates are received promptly and without misspelling words or altering vital pieces of information!

What does the law say?  

Despite widespread use of social media by police, there are few laws that specifically constrain law enforcement’s ability to engage in social media monitoring. In the absence of legislation, the strongest controls over this surveillance tactic are often police departments’ individual social media policies and platform restrictions, such as Facebook’s real name policy and Twitter’s prohibition against using its API for surveillance. While the constitutional landscape is unsettled, constitutional protections for privacy, freedom of speech and association, and equal protection may provide mechanisms for individuals to challenge the government’s collection and use of their social media data.

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Room for reform

The availability of social media has dramatically expanded the scope of law enforcement surveillance. At the same time, few departments have publicly available policies governing their use of social media for intelligence, data collection, and criminal investigations. There are a number of practical steps that can be taken to begin to address this gap.

  1.  Every jurisdiction should be required to hold public hearings and obtain local government approval before police engage in social media monitoring. Where departments are already engaged in this practice, they should pause the bulk of these operations pending public hearings and evaluate whether existing surveillance programs disproportionately target constitutionally protected groups or associations.
  2. Every law enforcement agency that uses social media for data gathering purposes should have a publicly available policy that describes their use of social media. These policies should detail the restrictions and procedures for social media monitoring and should specify the standards governing collection, use, retention, and sharing of personal information. Social media policies should contain clear prohibitions against surveillance based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or a person’s exercise of First Amendment freedoms. The policy should also specify the legal processes that must be followed before law enforcement can seek social media data from companies. The restrictions imposed by a department’s social media policy should be legally enforceable, such as by state attorneys general or the Department of Justice.
  3. Not every investigation warrants the use of invasive covert accounts. There should be strict controls on the use of this technique, including ongoing monitoring, supervisory approval and oversight, and time limitations. Law enforcement should be banned from impersonating an actual person without that person’s permission. Where law enforcement wants to use a covert account, they should be required to document that no less-invasive means are available and to submit the documentation to an external body for oversight and approval. Judicial oversight of online undercover activity would offer the most robust protection. 
  4. Police are prevented from interviewing minors without notifying their parent or guardian. This protection should be extended to the online space with a flat prohibition against police connecting with minors via social media.
  5. Social media monitoring should be subject to ongoing reporting and audit requirements. For example, police should have to regularly disclose information such as the number of social media investigations that are open and closed and those that are extended past their original closure date. The reports should also indicate where investigations may impact protected classes of people. Each police department’s social media monitoring practices should be audited by an independent entity on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with constitutional protections and safeguards.
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Pros And Cons Of Social Media In Law Enforcement

In today’s society can you see yourself without social media? The world as a whole has developed into connecting with one another via, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all social sites that allow you to network, share thoughts, pictures, and memories. There are many positive and negative aspects with social media, for example, social media in the workplace. Many employers have policies intact in order to gain positive feedback while minimizing the negative effects that can occur. In some careers there are pros and cons of social media. Throughout the year’s social media has impacted those who have chosen a career in Law Enforcement. As far as announcing job positions and solving crimes, officers have been terminated due to the actions
Crime prevention, one tool used by agencies to prevent crimes. Every time someone posts their vacation, career, loved ones, or daily routine schedule, they become a potential target. Also posting children, predators have many social networks that can harm them.

Public Relations, building relationships online within the community is also a tool used by many agencies. Law Enforcement agencies can share valuable information through post and forums, such as, neighborhood crime watch, local accidents, events, guides, and local resources. The most instrumental use having social networking is spreading the word of an emergency. Also, gaining control over the community, having a trustworthy relationship, providing the community with tips to secure the community.
Long, cruel, and intensive background investigations are conducted for candidates to separate those who trustworthy enough to carry the shield. Social networking has allowed background investigators to gain new and valuable insight into the character of their law enforcement candidates. Law enforcement and other sensitive positions would be well advised to clean up their social networking pages in advance. Any illegal activities or embarrassment to the department can disqualify participants in furthering their process.

Now that were aware of the pros, let’s discuss the negative effects social media has on Law Enforcement. Personal credibility is essential for law enforcement. Through social media, people easily can attack a police officer’s character. If an officer’s integrity is compromised, courtroom testimony and investigations are at risk. Law enforcement officers can find their honor under serious attack online at any time. Cases have occurred where comments posted online by officers have led to disciplinary actions.


By monitoring social media for law enforcement, you can stay up-to-date on their activity and help your business succeed. By using the tools to monitor posts and analyze them for law enforcement activity, you can keep your business safe while they’re on the job. In addition, by using social media to stay up-to-date on law enforcement activity, you can improve your customer relationships and grow your business.

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