New York City Cops will now be policing the web. The NYPD has established a new unit to track crimes via social media, both by looking for leads in crimes that have already been committed and by trying to predict future crimes based on comments made online.
This kind of tactic has already been used informally by the NYPD to track down everything from out-of-control house parties to murder suspects. One less-than-brilliant wanted criminal even tried taunting the New York police force on Facebook, for which he was immediately and justifiably arrested. But making it official - and trying to track "future crime," to borrow a phrase from Minority Report - represents a serious shift in NYPD policy, and maybe a precedent for other forces.
The news comes at an interesting moment for social media and crime. London rioters used social media to spread unrest; citizens, meanwhile, motivated clean-up activities the same way. And now the police in Britain may get the power to block users from social media platforms if they are "plotting violence, disorder, and criminality."