Researchers to help shine blue light on Social media‘s impact on public safety and security

A Europe wide research team led by the University of Warwick has won European funding to bring together communities, policing and policy makers to tackle how to protect the public on social media, and use social media to tackle crime and the fear of crime, while also preserving the freedoms offered by that social media.

Professor Jon Coaffee from the Resilient Cities Lab at the University of Warwick said:

“The research consortium, MEDI@4SEC, will focus on the opportunities, challenges and ethical consideration of social media use for public security – the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“Social media offers many good things for society including opportunities for problem solving, fighting crime, decreasing fear of crime and increasing the quality of life. However the bad can feed into the increase of digitized criminality and terrorism. The ugliest, darkest digital corners can include: trolling, cyberbullying, threats, the dark web, and even unhelpful live video-sharing of police and security operations during security incidents.”

“The public wants police and policy makers to have up to the minute plans that use and engage with this technology to best effect while also preserving the freedoms the technology bring”

MEDI@4SEC has won almost 2 million Euros of European Commission funding and it brings together researchers and security practitioners from organisations across Europe including: The University of Warwick, Nederlandse Organisatie Voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (TNO) (Netherlands), European Organisation for Security (EOS, Belgium) Fraunhofer IAO (Germany), European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS, France), Center for Security Studies (Greece), the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), XLAB (Slovenia), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (UK), and the Valencia Police (Spain).

Speaking on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Corporate Communications Manager Victoria Sloss said;

“The use of social media within policing is developing at a dynamic rate. The mediums available to help policing to communicate, to engage and to gather information on issues affecting communities are extensive. But it is important they are used in the right way, legally and ethically.

“Involvement in research such as the MEDIA4SEC project is vital for the development of social media use by policing organisations. We have a duty to communicate and engage with the public and it is important that we continue to develop the right tools to do this. In addition, our communities expect us to investigate and prevent crime and to use all tools at our disposal to do so. Understanding the best ways to use these mediums allows us to ensure we do this, adding to our capabilities to help ensure safer communities for all.”

The technological, social and policy environments within which public safety and urban security are delivered are dynamic and fast moving. The consortium will begin its work by bringing a wide range of police organisations, security professionals and policy makers together with local communities and social media users in a series of workshops. These will consider a number of issues including community engagement in public security, the dark web, trolling, riots and mass gatherings and DIY policing. In particular MEDI@4SEC will develop a clearer understanding of how social media can and cannot be used for public security purposes and highlight the ethical, legal and data-protection considerations when it is employed.

The MEDI@4SEC consortium will use its research to provide a user-friendly evidence-base and support for better policymaking that will include: best practice reports; information regarding a range of social media technologies; recommendations for EU standards; future training options; and, ethical awareness raising.