Ever since the riots that swept the UK in August there's been much debate and hand-wringing over what should be done with social media sites during times of unrest, with the government even threatening to shut down sites like Twitter.
Thankfully, Thersea May and co. seem to have come to their senses and said they will not be seeking additional powers to block sites. There was a timely reminder that these services can benefit law enforcement agencies on Thursday when it was revealed that over 600 police officers are now on Twitter.
Speaking at a Westminster Forum event, Paul Reilly, a lecturer in media and communications at the University of Leicester, noted that since the riots the number of police officers on Twitter had grown to 632.
"Every territorial force now has a Twitter feed as part of steps being taken to use this tool to engage and provide accurate information and stop rumours circulating," he added.
"Police in Northern Ireland have been particularly proactive in the use of social media and received praise for this and other forces are using these tools more effectively now but there has been a degree of caution among some too."
He added that this number had grown significantly since the riots as more officers out on the streets look for ways to engage with their community.
Furthermore, not only does Twitter offer engagement but it also offers a wealth of information that police forces can access, as Justin Crump, the chief executive of security intelligence consultancy firm Sibylline, explained.
"Social media is open source intelligence on steroids. It moves at a hell of a pace and can be very biased and you have to be very disciplined to deal with it but if you integrate people, processes and technology you can gain benefits," he said.
Indeed, V3 spoke with South Yorkshire Police in October who are using Twitter to increase engagement with the community and track potential disturbances, as police across the land prove that shutting down social media sites would be a disastrous decision.
24 Nov 2011