Twitter: Helpful or Hurtful During Active Manhunts

In the world of social media, these public outlets are being used not only to communicate with friends, family and peers, but to help advocate for public safety as well. We recently saw how people from all walks of life became involved on social media with the Boston bomber manhunt. In particular, Twitter was utilized so much so that when the suspect was finally apprehended, the Boston Chief of police tweeted about it in real-time.

Technology is constantly growing and whereas regular word of mouth, radio and television advertising practices were the norm in the past, social media has become the epicenter of brand establishment, promotion, marketing and most recently, been used as a tool in apprehending suspects at large. Because of the level of exposure that is offered through the use of social media, having a picture of someone on the run can literally be in front of millions of social media users within minutes.

This is a high contrast versus local media outlets that are limited in viewership and everyone has the ability to be involved. But if you aren’t familiar with the art of public safety management, is this helpful, or harmful?

Obviously, as there is a manhunt and awareness is being raised at such grand levels, it makes it that much harder for a suspect to go on in hiding. However, we did see what happens when too many hands are in the cookie jar.

Do you remember when the major online reporting website, Reddit jumped the gun and wrongly identified suspects for the Boston bombings? Not only did they wrongly do so, but they named names without having facts to back up their information. They wound up having to apologize profusely as a result. Just as the right information can get into the hands of millions quickly and be beneficial, the wrong information can be utterly toxic. This is especially true if there are people trying to take matters into their own hands.

The attention that social media demands unfortunately can sometimes mean that anyone with a public safety management degree now has a platform to say whatever they want to thousands of people at a time. It obviously can be a positive as they can prove to be crucial informants during emergency situations that are both public and widespread, including terror attacks and matters of homeland security.

This type of knowledge is crucial to being able to handle these types of situations with ease, minimize the chaos, add a sense of calm and understanding and potentially save lives. Yet, in the wrong hands, misinformation can spread like wildfire.

Twitter- Helpful or Hurtful During Active Manhunts