Using Social Media to Help Keep the Public Safe

This is part two of a three-part series on how analytics can help improve public safety and keep communities safe. You can read part one here.

For public safety officials today, Facebook and Twitter play an integral role in informing the public about current events. Social data from hashtags, tweets, and comments provide unparalleled amounts of real-time data. And when it comes to public safety and security threats, this data often drives how law enforcement, policymakers and citizens respond to emergency events.

While data from social media is beneficial for informing the public and first responders, it can also be dangerously misleading. False information can cause havoc and lead to rash decision-making if not validated. “The nature and speed of the Internet can cause people to jump to conclusions and rush ahead, but it’s also self-correcting,” American University communications professor Scott Talan said in US Today.

Making sense of the masses of social media data online is crucial for law enforcement and officials to track events keep communities safe. The rise of mobile technology and devices has made social media ideal for tracking location and movement. In addition, mobile enables near-real time mass communication of events. “The very fact of so many people having smartphones can give vital clues as to direction and intent of crowds,” said Ron Fellows, IBM Global Business Services.

However, this is not a simple endeavor. Unlike traditional sources of information, social media data is varied, diverse and highly unstructured. It is complicated to organize, but a goldmine of valuable information. If a picture is worth one thousand words, a social media post would be worth ten thousand.

IBM offers a comprehensive social media analytics solution to assist public safety officials in pulling out crucial clues and identifying potential threats. IBM’s ECM Rapid Content Analytics for Law Enforcement solution incorporates the following steps:

  • Identifies websites and people of interest that should be monitored. This may include Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, blogs, Google groups, forums and newsgroups, wikis and activist and hate group sites.
  • Crawl these sites to collect postings and documents.
  • Apply ECM Universe’s “Law Enforcement Language” to automatically identify threatening language.
  • Analyze the collected information, harnessing the power of IBM Content Analytics, based on the actual relevance of threatening language to a threat target.

This solution represents just one piece of a dynamic approach to public safety. Social media analytics should be built into existing safety strategies and organizational workflows, IBM recommends. The ECM Rapid Content Analytics solution can be easily integrated with an agency’s current applications and platforms.

Sorting through the endless stream of social media posts, likes, tweets, shares and pictures can be overwhelming and exhausting. But this task is necessary and beneficial in order for public safety officials to remain aware and respond appropriately to threats and events.

The advanced analytics solution provided by IBM’s ECM Rapid Content Analytics for Law Enforcement solution to gives public safety officials the power track trends, scan environmental cues and identify potential threatening language.

The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply