How London cops use social media to spy on protest movements

Juha sez, "If you're going to build a protest movement, it might be better to stay off Facebook and Twitter because the cops are fully tuned into social media these days. The Open Source Intelligence Unit at London's Metropolitan Police Service has a staff of seventeen who work seven days a week - to track social media feed back and to monitor community tension. Having a sense of humour and understanding of slang gives humans the edge over social media surveillance software, UK cops reckon. The British cops are worried about 4G mobile broadband though because it'll generate much more data such as video."

The unit monitored some 32 million social media articles during the Olympics, with 10,300 tweets being posted every second during the opening ceremony.

“Companies will tell your that sentiment analysis from a piece of software is about 56 percent accurate … we would say it's lower, because it doesn’t pick up humour or slang,” Ertogral said.

In addition to looking at trends, he said the unit was also exploring association to establish influencers, particularly for protest movements.

“So we’re trying to build friend lists on Facebook, who’s connected to who, who are the influencers out there etc.”

Police tap social media in wake of London attack [Charis Palmer/IT News]

(Thanks, Juha!)

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  1. What’s the UK definition of spying? Social media is public activity right? Isn’t this just good investigative technique? 
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    Edit, sorry, user error: Just as an add-on, I spent a day making fun of God’s neuroses yesterday, knowing full well that could come back to haunt me if my church was using Disqus to track me. But I took my chances. And I’m way more afraid of God’s army than I am of my government’s army.

    1. It would be a good investigative technique if they were investigating crimes more serious than sign-holding or slogan-chanting. It’s not spying, and it’s not investigation, it’s surveillance.

  2. Just as an add-on, I spent a day making fun of God’s neuroses yesterday, knowing full well that could come back to haunt me if my church was using Disqus to track me. But I took my chances. And I’m way more afraid of God’s army than I am of my government’s army.

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  4. Yesterday the comms in London went haywire.  Facebook in particular was dysfunctional.  Coincided with the protests.

  5. I was suprised how slow social media was with yesterday’s incidents. Subvertive websites and message boards combined with personal text messages were minutes faster than twitter, 10-15 minutes faster than facebook. The EDL marches were common knowledge to me and most of my circle of friends a full hour before it was reported on the BBC or any major news site.

    1. An hour? Maybe I’m an old dinosaur, but that doesn’t sound terribly slow considering the editorial layer at the Beeb the info has to get through.

  6. The Toronto Police and other jurisdictions monitor social media for protests, and for gang activity.

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