ESRC Terrorism, Security and Social Media Briefing on UPSI and Cardiff School of Computer Science Research into Community Impacts of Lee Rigby Murder

The recent terror attack in Tunisia highlights the ongoing risk of terrorism both abroad and in the UK, where the threat level of terrorism is ranked as 'severe'. Social media has increased the community impact of terror attacks, and ESRC research shows the need for post-event strategy measures to deal with this impact.

Social media is changing the speed of how the public learns about terrorist attacks, and the way they react. The first information to the public about incidents is now likely to come through social media channels such as Twitter rather than through traditional news outlets.

The ubiquity of smartphones means that information can be spread to a wide audience in real-time, providing details about the attack and police response, and updates on further developments. This new reality means that policymakers, security services and police forces need to consider the impact of social media in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, in terms of response planning for terrorist incidents, rapid dissemination of information and criminal investigation procedures.

The research project 'After Woolwich' is analysing social reactions to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May 2013 using social media data collected from Twitter, blogs and other sources. The data has enabled researchers to track how public perceptions and sentiments evolved in real-time as key events occurred, from the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case, to understand how public opinion is shaped and evolves throughout the events.

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