Missing person investigations involve the collection of information to ensure the person is located as fast as possible, minimising their exposure to harms. Social media is a valuable source of information in police investigations both to learn about the missing person, and to appeal for information to the public. To ensure social media is used safely and effectively, we must understand the concerns and experiences of investigating officers. In this pilot study, we analysed interviews from 8 experts who investigate missing children to identify the facilitators and barriers of using social media. We also identified concerns raised by officers around both immediate and long-term harm which can befall the missing person because of social media use in these cases. We detail these concerns hoping to motivate further research into their understanding and mitigation. We propose some possible avenues for future work around training and around technological solutions, such as exploring text-based machine learning to parse large volumes of text, flag hateful speech, and remove all instances of appeals to ensure individuals’ right to be forgotten is respected.
Howlings, E., & Solymosi, R. (2023). Exploring facilitators, barriers and concerns of police using social media when investigating missing children. International Journal of Missing Persons, 1(1), 104. https://doi.org/10.55917/2769-7045.1003