Criminologists and computer scientists at Cardiff University are investigating “what lessons can be learned from the murder of Lee Rigby for managing the community impacts of terrorist attacks of this kind in the future”.
They have tracked “social media traffic from the first tweet at the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case”. There was “in excess of 800 tweets a minute about the Lee Rigby murder at its peak” and “the suspects were first named on Twitter - several hours before their identities were released by the broadcast media.”
Professor Martin Innes, Director of the Universities’ Police Science Institute who is leading the research, said: “A lot of attention focuses upon how social media can be monitored to spot individuals who pose a potential risk of terrorism. But as the Intelligence and Security Committee Report identifies, in practice this is much harder than might be assumed, and not all attacks can be detected, especially those involving ‘lone wolf’ assailants.
“Reflecting this, our research is focused upon what can be learnt for the future from the murder of Lee Rigby in terms of improving the management of community impacts when terrorist incidents do occur. Our work has shown that social media is increasingly important in influencing how the public understand such attacks and what happens in the aftermath.
“There are very important consequences for the police and authorities in terms of taking the heat out of a tense situation and reducing the opportunities for the kinds of ‘secondary crimes’ that we saw following Lee Rigby’s killing.”