Anyone who has worked in a patrol capacity in the last few years will be very aware of the Policing nightmare that is Facebook. While I appreciate that social networking on sites such as Facebook and Twitter have their uses (I have both linked to this blog as well as my own personal accounts) they rely on the user having a modicum of intelligence and common sense. Unfortunately there is no test of this capacity as part of the sign up process.
As a result there are over 800,000,000 Facebook accounts and somewhere around 200,000,000 Twitter accounts running worldwide. Many of these will have been created and are maintained by people who would fail any test that required the user to write using a pen instead of both their thumbs (a la text message) or to write a sentence which contained words written in full rather than a vowel-less bastardised version of English or containing a bizarre mix of numbers and letters.
The implications of this unmonitored access and the anonymity or impersonal contact available to users can be dramatic. I believe that we could easily employ an entire relief in resolving Facebook slanging matches and spurious Threats To Kill complaints that flood in through our contact center or are reported at our tiny number of surviving front counter facilities.
Most of the complaints include some degree of he said, she said nonsense that could easily be solved with two simple steps:
Delete the comment : Block the person
Sadly though, rather than suffering the humiliation of reducing their list of “friends” by any degree, many choose to respond, time and time again, propagating more and more issues with every message and indirectly recruiting friends and relatives who have read the conversation to join in the urban wall-fare. Before you know it there are entire families, gangs, or social groups expressing an interest in the eradication of the opposition by any means and some poor panda driver gets the pleasure of standing in the middle and trying to sort it all out.
Banging on everyone’s front door and delivering a bollocking would be the most practical solution. However, it’s rarely that easy as A has previously had a one night stand with C who is the current girlfriend of D and who has made some vaguely offensive comment about B who is from a minority ethnic group. Cue the big red flashing lights in the Domestic Violence and Hate Crime Review offices and the removal of any degree of practical policing or proportionate response. Before you know it, eight people under the age of 18 have had to be spoken to, statemented and/or interviewed and a forty page file has been passed up the line for review by a succession of risk-averse senior managers and hand-wringing office dwellers.
Eventually, after twenty or thirty officer hours have been expended negating every avenue for negative community opinion the situation gets resolved by a Neighbourhood officer who, ironically, knocks on everyone’s front door and delivers a slightly fluffier and community focused bollocking than would have been delivered two weeks earlier. This less robust delivery of the same information will no doubt be ignored by most who hear it, and by tea time, everyone is back on Facebook accusing everyone else of getting them into trouble with the gavvers!
That is, of course, unless they are too busy trying to get all their mates to go and kick off a riot in Lidl carpark…
In Thailand, a different approach is being taken to those who make inappropriate comments by text or other means. Recently there have been issues with people setting up anti-monarchy pages on the Book of Face, and allowing readers to show their support via the “Like” button. One resident was also found to have made un-supportive comments via text message. This act is a breach of the strict lèse-majesté laws which exist in Thailand, and which even prohibit people discussing offences that have been committed.
Amphon Tangnoppaku, 61 has been convicted of four such offences this week. He sent messages that were considered insulting to the countries Queen and received a twenty year prison sentence as a result. 36 such cases were brought by Thai authorities last year. Facebook users have been given a direct order to delete anything from their accounts that might be seen as insulting to the Monarch or risk prosecution themselves. This tough line has been adopted by Thai authorities following criticism of the government over being too soft on criminals, but is now also being criticised by those who object to the limitations being placed on people’s freedom of expression.
My suggestion is that we consider sending a delegation of PCSO‘s and Neighbourhood officers to the country to oversee negotiations and address the community impact that this is undoubtedly having on the general population. They are, after all, the unwilling experts in such matters.No tags for this post.