Two men from Bristol, UK, were arrested for making offensive comments on Twitter about the brutal murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in London. The Bristol men were detained for racist comments and religious hatred and later released on bail, the Independent daily reported. The Bristol arrest is the latest example of the police reacting to and arresting people based on their tweets. Twitter is the fastest growing micro blogging platform in the world. This is how police around the world are using it as a cyber informant.
Police encourage reporting after woman hits cyclist
Several days before the Bristol arrest, police from Norfolk, UK, investigated an accident after motorist Emma Way boasted on Twitter that she hit the cyclist on the road. Norfolk police tweeted her back suggesting she immediately report to at a police station, Sky news reported.
Man threatens to assassinate US president
Donte Jamar Sims from Charlotte, N.C., was put behind bars after tweeting he would assassinate President Barack Obama. Sims may have found his activity on the social networking site funny, but his tweet posted a day before the 2012 Democratic National Convention was not humorous to the Secret Service agents who picked him up for threatening to assassinate the president.
15-year-old boy tweets threat after Newtown massacre
A week after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a 20-year-old man killed 20 children, six adults and his mother before committing suicide, a 15-year-old boy from Wichita, Kan., was arrested after sending a Twitter thereat to kill 20 students. Wichita Police representative Doug Nolte said that police take all threats of violence seriously. The boy who tweeted about the possible mass killing was brought to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
2010 UK airport bombing threat results in arrest
In 2010 in Doncaster, UK, police advised the public to use social networking sites appropriately, “as they are easily accessible to the public and any inappropriate use could cause unnecessary concern and lead to comments being reported to police.”, 26, was arrested after an airport bomb threat was posted on Twitter. After the arrest, which was made under the Criminal Law Act,
Teen investigated after insulting Olympic athlete Tom Daley
During the Olympic Games in London last year, another teen — Reece Messer — was investigated by police after he posted offensive tweets about British diving star Tom Daley. Even though Daley did not make a formal complaint about the online harassment, Messer was arrested after a complaint from a member of the public. Stuart Hyde, the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on social media, said: “Social media is increasingly part of police business and the law covers situations where you have comment that goes way beyond legitimate opinion.” He argued that people have the right to speak freely but it has to be within the law. According to Hyde, police were asked to look at Facebook content alone 14,000 times in 2011. Investigating Twitter posts is also becoming a major part of police activities.
Semiocast's latest study revealed that Twitter reached the half billion account mark worldwide in June 2012, including more than 140 million users in the United States and more than 30 million in the UK alone. The top three cities by number of tweets last year were Jakarta, Tokyo and London. Even though the percentage of the Twitter users has doubled since November 2010, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center’s report, there are only 16 percent of Twitter users in the US. Ethnically, in the US, African Americans are more likely to use Twitter more frequently on daily basis than whites and Hispanics.