The Paedophile Hunter

You may have caught a story on 60 Minutes last week surrounding Stinson Hunter, a British man who in the last two years has helped convict 18 men of paedophilia.

The story made gripping television. It outlined how Stinson lures paedophile’s online and then films them coming to the real world meeting. All video footage is then passed on to the police and posted on the internet.

When asked why he does it, Stinson replies, “I want to know why he (the paedophile) is doing it and I want to put it on the internet.”

In my previous posts on this blog I have explored how PR has been changed by the advent of social media and this story got me thinking about the Police and how social media has been a complete game changer for them.

On the program Stinson makes contact with a suspect posing as an underage girl and after the suspect realises he’s been caught, he agrees to meet Stinson and defend himself. It’s extremely real and thankfully as close of many of us will ever get to meeting a paedophile.

The producers of 60 Minutes have painted him as a vigilante style super hero, someone who has overcome a rough past to protect our kids.

Seeking justice outside of the courts has many dangers, the most obvious being the falsely accusing someone and the irreparable damage that is done to their lives. At the end of the program you are left wondering if the end justifies the means.

The story is wrapped up with the mention of laws being changed in Britain to stop people like Stinson creating his own form of justice. Facebook lit up after the program aired with comments like “Why don’t the police hire him?!” and “Good on him, exposing the vermin of society”.

This post is not about Social Media and how paedophiles are manipulating it but instead I wanted to look at it from a different perspective and see how people’s perceptions of the police are rocked by their inability to accept help from social media do-gooders.

So, what has social media changed for the police? It allows popular opinion to be spread easily, it allows conversations to happen and agenda’s to be set without their input.

My previous post about Local Government adapting to the use of social media has some commonalities with this one. Organisations are now more accountable than ever for their productivity, the police are no different. Their future direction will be driven by social media, by creating good news stories that tell the story of how successful they as an organisation are and keeping public opinion in their favour.

Like it or lump it the PR machine at Police HQ will need to kick into a higher gear or they will face the tide turning on popular opinion.


Smoke cloud from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires

Floods, bushfires and earthquakes, oh my!

The burgeoning use of Social Media during natural disasters

Helicopter fighting fires

Image courtesy of Sean Elliston: Churchill fires Black Saturday 2009

In the past ten years social media has become an integral part of emergency management. With 13.8 million people on Facebook in Australia (yep, that’s over half the population), the digital age has drastically changed the way we seek out information. In emergency response situations, questions can be asked, have my neighbours been evacuated? Has the threat passed? Can I bring my dog? and they can be answered right away.

Using social media a resident can get the most up to date advice, collect and donate goods, rally communities together, check on loved ones, the opportunities are endless. Social media provides a central point to access local, up to date information quickly and easily. The sheer speed of social media makes it a great match for emergency management situations but the potential downside is a steep one. The difference between life and death may lie in a tweet or post from an unreliable source.

The Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 saw a fire front moving up to 600m per 30 seconds. The efficient and effective use of social media in a situation such as this could be lifesaving. But what if the information put out isn’t accurate? In the six years since black Saturday the social media landscape has changed substantially so there is no real understanding of what would happen in a current event.

The risks involved for individuals, organisations and businesses are huge. Could a person be held accountable for the information they put out? What if they are directed to put out that information by their manager? The need for good, current policy for emergency services, government and other agencies is clear. If ever there is a time your communications are high risk and under a potential microscope it is during an emergency response. On top of all this your customers’ expectations are sky high.

The interconnectedness of agencies’ messages is of paramount importance. There must be agreed single points of truth for each area; roads, police, water, firefighters. A communication plan must exist that includes how the agency will interact with its stakeholders through social media as well as detail how information is to be sourced and distributed. Employees knowing what to post and when to post it is the best way to avoid errors and protect lives.

Harnessing and evaluating real time information is critical in times of crisis and by posting any information online there is risk. But the greater risk is in neglecting to provide your audience with the appropriate messages. The information must be available where they seek it… social media.


This old dog has some new tricks

We are all aware of the changes social media has brought about in our personal lives. But has your working life changed? Mine has quite substantially.

Dog with ball on his nose

Image courtesy of Meg Price, Flickr

The local government sector long operated with a formal complaint system, along with phoned in, handwritten or typed customer service requests. Effective maybe but efficient? No. These things do still exist, bless their cotton socks, but the last few years have seen a massive shift in the way a Council does business.

Do you have a light bulb out in your park? Snap a pic and upload it to council’s page, or tag them in your album. You will send a communications or customer service officer charging through your local government building seeking answers to your questions. Bypassing the usual rigmarole. Through interactions with the community, officers must be efficient, engaging, and above all be “honest and respect the rules of social media”(Kaplan:2010).

Along with these real time customer service requests, using social media as part of a larger marketing strategy in a “increasingly participative and interactive digital culture”(Zhou:2011) is smart. For Council, a new customer base is reached and engaged in decision-making issues. As with any new medium, there is potential for misuse. The need for good policies and accountable actions by staff are bringing local government to the forefront of a great customer experience.

Below is a video about Social Media Policy from the Department of Justice in Victoria. #theneedforgoodpolicy

Text References:

Zhou, X., (2011), Connecting with a click: Using social media as a new marketing strategy, pp.26 Journal of Digital Research & Publishing

Kaplan, A.M., & Haenlein, M.,(2010) Users of the world unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media, pp.67, Kelley School of Business Horizons 53 (59-68).