While the UK government considers the possibility of restricting social media during crises, the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have embraced it as a tool to prosecute, and publicize the prosecutions, of those involved with the recent London riots.
The GMP’s approach seems to be two-fold: First, the police are tweeting out the name, date of birth, and neighborhood of residence of those they’ve arrested. This might seem shocking to American audiences, but the GMP are adamant that they are simply fulfilling their legal obligation to publish the information of those found guilty. They maintain that the date of birth and home information is intended to prevent confusion between people with the same name as those who have been arrested. Quoting from their Twitter feed, the police say, “Lot of debate about publishing details – courts very clear, justice should be done publicly.”
Their second social media prong is a Flickr account with photos of unidentified suspects from the riots. The hope is that members of the public will identify those pictured, allowing the police to press charges. Each picture has a unique designation, and phone numbers to contact the GMP. Given the sheer number of closed-circuit TV cameras in London, it’s not surprising that they’ve got a lot of pictures to work with.
Of course, the actions of the GMP are not without criticism. Some have found the amount of information the police are making available, particular through Twitter, disturbing. One commentor called it a “disgusting abuse of power.”
Further more, it’s open to debate whether this social engagement strategy will actually yield more arrests. The GMP website says that 176 people have been arrested and charged following the riots, though how those arrests were made is unclear. That aside, their boisterous social media presence is likely meant to convey a comforting impression to the public that much is being done after the riots. It is also no doubt intended to drive home the point to the people they seek for arrest in connection to the riots: “If you were involved, we will find you.”
(via The Next Web)