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Police routinely monitor social media for clues of possible criminal activity

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. adults use social media and that number is likely even higher among U.S. teens. Today, people readily use social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep in touch with friends, post funny or interesting photos, share news and express their personal views about a variety of topics. There is, however, a downside to social media and individuals would be wise to remember that the comments and photos they post can be viewed by unintended parties.

It turns out that police departments across the country are also avid users of social media, however, their reasons for using these sites are much different from those of the average user.

Recent news articles describe how police officers are turning to social media websites to discover and monitor individuals who may be involved in or have links to criminal activities. One example of how police are using sites like Twitter and Facebook involved the drug arrest of a suspected gang member. After the individual was arrested, questioned and released by police; a tweet was sent out alerting other possible gang members that the individual may be working as a police informant.

By monitoring the traffic generated from the tweet, officers were able to identify individuals who may be members or affiliates of the gang. Police also report cases in which individuals use social media websites to post incriminating photos or to brag about criminal activity. Evidence like this, may lead to additional surveillance operations and even search warrants and can ultimately result in an individual’s arrest and criminal charges.

Source: Boston Herald, "Use of Twitter, Facebook rising among gang members," Thomas Watkins, Feb. 2, 2010

Intelligence for Life, "Gangs Are Using Social Networking Sites to Brag About Crimes," March 22, 2016

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