Social Media and Law Enforcement Investigations




Cedillo, Juan

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



There are 2.8 billion social media users (Hutchinson 2017); digital crime is rising, and it is time for law enforcement (LE) to take a more active role in digital investigations. People are using social media to showcase their criminal activities whether they know they are committing or have committed a crime to gain “likes”, or to increase their popularity amongst their peers (McGovern, 2016). LE has been hesitant when it comes to the usage of technology for their investigations because of the lack of knowledge and the question of legality when it comes to violating the privacy of an individual. LE should take a step into the electronic technology age and use social media to investigate criminal activity. The usage of social media by LE assists investigators with investigating terrorism plots, witness and suspect identification in violent crimes, and public outreach to become better connected with the public and build trust. There are questionable legalities regarding the usage of social media by LE. They must provide sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant for the social media sites. It is imperative for LE agencies to embrace the usage of social media for investigations. They must break the barriers of technology for investigators to be successful and for crimes to be solved. They must adapt to new trends and use technology to their advantage. LE will also need to implement a social media policy and standard operating procedure within their agencies. Investigators must be trained to properly use social media platforms to maximize their investigative skills. With new technology coming out every day, LE agencies should utilize social media platforms to their advantage to investigate all crimes.


Police--Community, Police and Mass Media, Social Media