In general terms, law enforcement agencies use social networks as a tool to share information, as well as to gather information to aid in investigations. Social networks are one of the many tools that law enforcement agencies can use to connect with the community. As technology has advanced over time, many positive and negative changes have resulted in these changes. When it comes to the Criminal Justice System, social networks have been used to take advantage of arrests, film criminal trials, publish press releases on certain cases, send out amber alerts and much more.
Social media has allowed people around the world to be continuously updated on arrests, the results of court cases and information on suspects. On the other hand, notifying the public too soon can cause big problems in the case or run the risk of valuable information being leaked. We need to weigh these options before posting any information on social media about the judicial system. There is no doubt that social networks have been beneficial to some criminal justice institutions.
Social networks work with sensationalist news, emotions and cuts. Therefore, criminal justice is a recurring theme on these platforms. The more emotionally and morally reprehensible they are, the more attention criminal matters receive on social media. Information about ongoing judicial investigations and criminal trials is shared, and users comment on and disseminate that information.
As the audience broadens, social networks end up shaping public opinion. Jurors and judges bear the pressure of generally repressive public opinion. While the key principles of justice are supposed to guarantee its independence, fairness and impartiality, and although regulations impose limitations on freedom of expression on social networks, safeguarding the rights of the defense is sometimes a great challenge. Public opinion is not reliable, especially in a criminal case where only the parties to the trial and the judges have the detailed but crucial information about the case.
Social media has created new opportunities for criminal justice agencies to solve crimes, among other things. After all, social networks contain a great deal of information and misinformation about individual users and their networks, and few laws restrict what law enforcement can do with social media data. These aspects of the use of social media helped prosecutors comply with the legal requirements necessary to file criminal conspiracy charges against the defendants. As social networks reveal more factors in criminal cases, new opportunities arise to solve crimes and bring those responsible to justice, along with doubts about the fairness and reliability of such evidence.
In anti-gang lawsuits, social networks generate more associations with neighborhood gangs for young black people, who, already under the shadow of suspicion, are often quickly and irrevocably described as gang members by law enforcement. These contexts point to the double-edged sword of the use of social networks in criminal cases, since they open communication channels that were once closed to criminal activity and, at the same time, work to support stereotypes and ancestral disparities in the courts. Information about criminal cases attracts a great deal of interest on social media, but mobilizing the public online in an ongoing criminal case poses major challenges to the judicial system. However, when it comes to publications about ongoing criminal trials, many users don't see the problem with those publications.
We also see evidence on social media as a type of privileged evidence that is not equally accessible to both sides of the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to public defenders. Packed with intelligence from multiple technologies and coercive field methods, social networks provided the connective tissue needed to wipe out large numbers of suspected gang members at once, along with the conspiracy law. As platforms evolve and new problems emerge, social networks will continue to offer challenges and opportunities to criminal justice officials, in addition to changing the way the public perceives and interacts with issues of crime and victimization. The positive thing about digitizing Criminal Justice System is giving people access to crimes and offenders while cases are still active.
However, this also brings up questions about fairness and reliability when it comes to evidence presented online or through public opinion. It is important for law enforcement agencies to weigh their options before posting any information on social media about judicial proceedings or suspects in order to ensure that justice is served fairly.