Social network media and political activism: a growing challenge for law enforcement

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Newnham, J
Bell, P
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2012
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The use of the internet for political purposes is not new; however, the introduction of social media tools has opened new avenues for political activists. In an era where social media has been credited as playing a critical role in the success of revolutions (Earl & Kimport, 2011; Papic & Noonan, 2011; Wooley, Limperos & Beth, 2010), governments, law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to develop a deeper understanding of the broader capabilities of this emerging social and political environment. This can be achieved by increasing their online presence and through the application of proactive social media strategies to identify and manage potential threats. Analysis of current literature shows a gap in the research regarding the connection between the theoretical understanding and practical implications of social media when exploited by political activists, and the efficacy of existing strategies designed to manage this growing challenge. This paper explores these issues by looking specifically at the use of three popular social media tools: Facebook; Twitter; and YouTube. Through the examination of recent political protests in Iran, the UK and Egypt from 2009-2011, these case studies and research in the use of the three social media tools by political groups, the authors discuss inherent weaknesses in online political movements and discuss strategies for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor these activities.

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Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism
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7
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1
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Criminology
Police administration, procedures and practice
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