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Using Social Media and Social Network Analysis in Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2018
28 pages
This report presents key findings of an expert panel convened by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in April 2017 to identify and assess high-priority needs for law enforcement's analysis of social media and social networks to provide key information needed to address crime risks, hold offenders accountable, and ensure physical safety.
Social media analysis consists of methods and tools for collecting and analyzing text, photos, video, and other material shared through social media systems, such as Facebook and Twitter. Social network analysis is a type of data analysis that investigates social relationships and structure as represented by networks. Social media, given that it reflects relationships inherently, is a key source of data for social network analysis; conversely, social network analysis is one key type of social media analysis. The expert panelists viewed law enforcement's attention to social media and social network analysis as important for monitoring short-term safety threats in postings, the identification of those at high risk of involvement in violence, and the investigation of specific crimes and organized crime networks. The panel noted that law enforcement agencies should not be involved in monitoring first- amendment-protected activity for vague purposes. The panel specified a framework for providing computer security, privacy, and civil rights protections when using social media and social network analysis. This report also outlines four themes in its identification and prioritization of needs for innovation related to social media and social network analysis. One of the four proposals is the creation of a help-desk to assist law enforcement agencies in preparing requests to social media companies and interpreting data obtained from social media and social network analyses. 10 figures, 6 tables, 33 references, and appended technical supplement and a list of needs

Date Published: July 1, 2018