While we had David Cameron yesterday, and wrongly, talking about banning social media what has been far more interesting is how it has been used as a force of good, which I blogged about here and here.
Something else that has emerged is how many different police forces in the UK have used social media during the last week to keep everyone informed of this fast moving story. We’ve seen the Metropolitan Police tweeting away, as well as the Greater Manchester Police and the police in Sussex who put out this message praising social media and rightly painting it as a force for good.
Anyway Sussex Police, which had been posting live updates like other forces throughout the riots, offered thanks for all the “reassuring messages posted on social media”.
Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Nick Wilkinson said: “While there has been a lot of focus on the negative aspects of the use of social media in other parts of the country, in Sussex we have seen how it can be a force for good.
“People are increasingly turning to police Twitter accounts for timely, accurate and honest information and we have seen followers across all our various accounts rise. We have been using Twitter to engage with people, to quickly dispel rumours and put people’s minds at rest. I would particularly like to thank everyone who has helped us with this and also express our gratitude for the enormous number of messages of support and appreciation that we have received.
It isn’t just Sussex Police, the GMP has also tweeted on the subject: “Support from the public – on the streets, on social networks, everywhere – has been fantastic” and the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy went on camera to defend social networks criticised by Cameron for allowing people to organise riots:
As well as forces as a whole there were also individual officers posting regular updates on Twitter such as Superintendent Mark Payne in Wolverhampton.
The police, as much as any public organisation, that needs to speak regularly to the public has found that it can use social media as a PR and news tool. They have become adept at quickly posting video online such as this looter’s home being raided, which went up very quickly yesterday:
As well as news the police also seemed to have realised that Twitter, in particularly, is useful when it comes to fighting the spread of rumour and ensuring that there is an official voice on Twitter. And you need that. This week, as rumours quickly spread making people panicky, we needed that more than ever.
We saw that again this morning as Coventry Police tweeted: “Malicious text message circulating saying mosque has been firebombed in Broad St, Coventry. UNTRUE Please RT.”
Great work all round.