Local authorities discuss the opportunities and threats of social media in local security policies

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Paris, October 2016 – How do local authorities use social media to strengthen their local security policy? What are the opportunities and dangers of social media? How to preserve fundamental freedoms and promote citizen participation? These are some of the questions addressed in a workshop on the role of social media in local security held by Efus on 4 October in Paris, as part of the European Medi@4Sec project in which it is a partner.

P1120440Representatives of 11 member cities and two researchers attended the one-day meeting. Sebastian Denef, Research Fellow at the Fraunhofer IAO Institute, a leading German research organisation specialised in business models and processes, gave an overview of what the project terms “the good, the bad and the ugly side” of social media. The good side is the new avenue for direct communication and heightened level of trust between citizens and authorities opened by social media; the bad is the presence of illegal organisations on the web and the risk of “DIY justice”; the ugly is the dark web, trolling, and illegal activities that are dangerous and difficult to track and fight.

Four examples of use of social media by local authorities were presented. The Hague has set up an online platform for the sharing of information on local security among police, the local authority and citizens, said Marielle den Hengst, from the University of Delft, and Erwin Rouwenhorst, from The Hague City Council (NL). In Emilia Romagna (IT), the regional government is developing a programme to train local police on the use of social media in coordination with local municipalities, explained Samanta Arsani. Paulo Anjos, of Setubal (PT), presented the app developed for local residents who need to contact police in case of emergency, which uses geolocation to identify where the caller is located. Darshan Santini, of the Idiap Research Institute of Lausanne, presented a research project carried out in Lausanne and Zurich (CH) to study nightlife behaviours and the use of public spaces at night through social media.

Attendees also discussed their concerns about social media. A priority is to communicate properly with citizens and to know what information to share. Another important aspect is the need to invest in training staff. The question of whether to bring on board external professionals in online communication was raised. Participants also stressed the need to communicate in various languages in order to reach all groups of population.

Started in June 2016 for a duration of two years, Medi@4Sec is funded by the EU through the Horizon 2020 research programme and led by the University of Warwick. Its purpose is to examine the use of social media against crime and fear of crime while preserving fundamental freedoms. As a partner in the project, Efus is in charge of gathering information about local authorities’ experience with social media and local security in order to draw attention to their needs and expectations so that adequate research may be conducted.

The other partners are the Greek Centre for security studies (Kentro Meleton Asfaleias, KEMEA), the local police of Valencia (SP), the European Organisation for Security (EOS) (BE), the Fraunhofer IAO Institute (DE), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research (TNO), the Northern Ireland Police (GB), the software development company Xlab Razjov (SL), and the University of Utrecht (NL).

For more information about Medi@4sec, please visit http://media4sec.eu/