Social media has been one of the critical tools in transforming the world; it influences both professional and personal lives. In cases of law enforcement, Facebook, in particular, is a tremendous upthrust of threat to communities. Many police departments have substantially inclined their commitment to protecting and serving citizens to using social media as a valuable tool in the investigations (Arshad et al., 2019). As in every other field, social media can be used in many ways with various benefits. Different social networks do have different purposes in regards to criminal investigation and prosecution. The contemporary police department makes use of social for the public input intent. However, some other strategies are kept as a confidential part of the investigation. Various methods showcase the significance of social media to law enforcement.
Sting operations have been a crucial exercise in law enforcement. Police use this method to catch individuals in their act of crime by taking a role as a character in that crime—for instance, a potential client of prostitution or drug dealer. Today, police officers conduct sting operations via the internet, mainly through social media, perhaps, luring pedophiles with bogus profiles on Facebook or any other social media platform. During such investigations, a police officer would pose a teenager and contact Facebook group of any other public action (Walsh & O’Connor, 2019). The aim is for the investigative personnel to meet the suspected individual in person. Upon meeting the suspect, the arrest is made immediately.
Suspect’s location tracking has been made easier by integrating social media in investigations. Metadata that links pictures, video, or text to a defined geographical location is a crucial tool for finding suspects in law enforcement. In some police departments, a product referred to as Blue Jay is used to scanning tweets to pinpoint the behavior of a known criminal and identify anything that can be relied on in the event of prosecution. Location tagging has enabled to freely search for a specific crime hotspot and go an extra mile to gain instances of photographic substance from a crime.
It is factual that social media can be used in criminal investigations and eventually bring charges to responsible perpetrators. Private messages and posts from social media ultimately end up being relied on in criminal as evidence to prove the defendant guilty. Examples of charges that would typically sprout up from social media include cyberstalking, parole violations, soliciting minors, and doxing.
Cyberstalking is one of the most typical charges; some people use social media to share unwanted harassing and, to some extent, frightful texts to others. Situations of parole violations are on the rise. An individual on probation always has some conditions; staying away from some places or not leaving their state (Hamilton, 2020). Today, monitoring such individuals has been made easy by the availability of social media. Doxing, though a rare charge, refers to someone exposing other people’s private information, causing them to fear (Mehandru, & Koenig, 2018). For instance, someone may be charged for putting out someone’s address on Facebook.
In this contemporary age, social media executes such an essential part of our lives that in most cases, police departments often commence their investigation by using social media. For example, when there is a shooting in a public event or a party, it would make sense to try to get some names of people present at that party and do some follow-ups on their social media accounts. Then the officers can check if they had posted any picture or video, hence locating their locations. To avoid charges emanating from social media, an individual should post responsibly.
Arshad, H., Jantan, A., & Omolara, E. (2019). Evidence collection and forensics on social networks: Research challenges and directions. Digital Investigation, 28, 126-138.
Mehandru, N., & Koenig, A. (2018). ICTS, social media, & the future of human rights. Duke L. & Tech. Rev., 17, 129.
Walsh, J. P., & O’Connor, C. (2019). Social media and policing: A review of recent research. Sociology compass, 13(1), e12648.
Hamilton, R. J. (2020). Social Media Platforms in International Criminal Investigations. Case W. Res. J. Int’l L., 52, 213.