Social media can be a dangerous thing. The London riots have shown how Twitter, Facebook, and Blackberry Messenger can be used to organize violent acts. The NYPD is trying to stay ahead of the curve with their new unit which will monitor social networks for suspicious activity.
The NYPD has already used Twitter and Facebook to arrest a few criminals.
In March, a house party in Queens ended when Anthony Collao was beaten to death after he was accused of being gay. Calvin Pietri bragged about the murder on Facebook, which eventually lead to his arrest.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said:
“We look at social networking. We’re very much focused on weekend parties, the type of parties that happened last weekend, and we visit them ahead of time… Our gang division, our borough personnel look at party advertisements. A lot of these things are at peoples’ apartments.”
The new juvenile justice unit will be headed by Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor. O’Connor and his team will mine Twitter and Facebook for information related to gangs, large house parties, and other mayhem.
Monitoring social media is a great way to catch the criminals that are dumb enough to brag about their crimes in a public forum. But it’s also a step closer to government control of the internet.
As the riots continue in London, David Lammy, the U.K.’s intellectual property minister, has asked for RIM to temporarily end its BlackBerry Messenger service. The move might be necessary to quell the violence in London, but it would also set a scary precedent.
BlackBerry told police earlier this week that it will cooperate in anyway it can. Blackberry hasn’t commented, or agreed, to Lammy’s request yet.