Use of social network websites in investigations

Social network services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations. Information posted on sites such as Instagram, Orkut and Facebook has been used by police and university officials to prosecute users of said sites. In some situations, content posted on Instagram has been used in court to determine an appropriate sentence based on a defendant's attitude.[1][2] The U.S. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made federal grants available to states to train law enforcement officers to use social media sites to identify events that may result in impaired driving or consumption by minors. As of 2012, Michigan spent over $4.5 million through this program, and has trained over 100 local police officers to use social media cites to identify and target events.[3]


Facebook, a social network service, is increasingly being used by school administrations and law enforcement agencies as a source of evidence against student users. The site, a popular online destination for college students, allows users to create profile pages with personal details. In the early years of the site, these pages could be viewed by other registered users from the same school, including resident assistants, campus police, or others who signed up for the service. The user privileges and terms of service of the site have since been changed to allow users to control who has the ability to view their content.

Recent disciplinary actions against students based on information made available on Facebook has spurred debate over the legality and ethics of school administrators' harvesting such information. Facebook's Terms of Use specify that "the website is available for your personal, noncommercial use only," misleading some to believe that college administrators and police may not use the site for conducting investigations. However, Facebook spokespeople have made clear that Facebook is a public forum and all information published on the site should be presumed available to the general public, school administrators included. Legal experts agree that public information sources such as Facebook can be legally used in criminal or other investigations.[4]

In the aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, community participation in assisting police to identify the rioters has been described as unprecedented.[5] Police admitted to being overwhelmed by the amount of evidence provided by social media.[6]

Alcohol policy violations

It has become increasingly common for colleges and universities to use Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies. Students who violate these policies may be discovered through photographs of illicit drinking behavior, membership in drinking-related groups, or party information posted on the Facebook website. Some examples of such investigations are listed below:

Other investigations

Student government


Facebook and other social networking sites are being used to bring bullying outside of school. Students are being targeted on the internet and even mobile devices. A new strategy to catch cyber-bullies is being implemented in Reading, Berkshire:

Indian law addresses some of the components of cyber-bullying. However, the perpetrators are children and therefore alternatives to criminalization and other policies should be adopted.[44]


See also


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  43. No Facebook! Bangalore schools ask students to delete profiles |
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