19 February 2015
Next week the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott will present a security statement to Parliament ahead of the impending release of the joint review by New South Wales State and Commonwealth Government into the Sydney Siege. The siege took place in Martin Place, Sydney over 17 hours, 15-16 December 2014 in which the perpetrator and two victims died. The report will provide many insights, including how agencies and the public interacted with social media. Social media use in criminal and terrorist acts is and will continue to be at the top of minds of responding agencies and across all levels of government.
Sydney Siege and other recent events in February (Shootings in Copenhagen, and arrest of two Sydney terrorist suspects) highlight the ever impending threat to global national security from acts of terrorism and crime, and the communication critical ingredient, social media.
So why is social media a critical ingredient for pushing their agenda?
Social media enables these terrorist organisations with the ability to reach millions in seconds
Social media is a minimal cost option, access is easy
Social media can be used for recruitment and mobilisation.
Terrorist groups can thwart attempts by social media companies to shut down their social media accounts and message amplification campaigns by setting up numerous false names and accounts ahead of time and they are waiting in the wings to activate those accounts and continue the reign of terror when their operations are compromised.
Which raises the point, terrorist groups are and will continue to use social networks which allows them to interact with the public in sharing and consuming real time information 24/7. These channels have made message amplification to a global audience, easy and for the vast majority of social media users, messages are indeed social and benign in content. However for those intent on pushing their own ideological agenda such as terrorist groups, social media has evolved into a vital part of their arsenal for increasing their reach, impact and achieving their objectives.
Which raises the key points for responding agencies to consider in their strategies to reduce crime and apply counter terrorism tactics:
Social is here to stay; you cannot control it. Which means it is vital to use effective listening approaches. The result will be increased impact across communications in police prevention initiatives, investigations, operations, intelligence gathering processes and public information management.
Social platforms are organic and changeable, agencies need to adapt systems to better identify and decipher intelligence.Emergency management communication systems must integrate social media to enhance capacity and capability in crisis communication efforts.
Empower your staff to use social, train and support them, focussed training should be ongoing as the digital landscape is forever changing. In addition, your staff need to become well versed in the policies related to the acquisition, use and storage of the information gathered.
Engage with your community pre, during and post events, educate them to recognise and report acts of crime or terrorism. “See Something. Say Something” A steady vigilance will help to keep us all safe.
It is imperative that law enforcement counter terrorism departments focus their efforts on integrating social media information into established practices. It's all about keeping our eyes wide open and our communities safe.
Copyright © Caroline Milligan & Susan Manniche 2015