AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

FBI uses social media to catch a crook

Posted by chadlymc on June 23, 2011

Remember the movie The Departed starring Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello, the fictional mob boss from Boston? Nicholson’s character was based off of real-life mobster James Whitey Bulger who, as life would have it, was finally apprehended by the FBI on Wednesday. How’d they catch him? Why through social media of course. It’s true, just check out this mashable.com article:  http://mashable.com/2011/06/23/fbi-bulger-social-media/ . The FBI posted a video claiming to be looking for Bulger’s girlfriend Catherine Greig and mentioning her association with Bulger. The video was posted to the FBI’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages and the TV ad appeared in 14 cities nationwide. The ad lists large cash rewards for information leading to Greig and put enough pressure on her and Bulger that Bulger turned himself in to Santa Monica, CA police on Wednesday. This is the power of social media at its finest. Not only did they find him after this social media push, but they tweeted about his apprehension immediately following it. No press release, no press conference, just a tweet that says:

A simple tweet and the major news outlets picked up on the story of his apprehension and ran it.

This event raises a few questions in my mind: will this be the new way of locating notoriously elusive criminals? Considering the premise that we’re all innocent until proven guilty, should the FBI be permitted to post videos such as this and offer rewards in such a public platform as social media? What if a Facebook post had lead to this apprehension, would the poster have received the cash reward? If so, how do you prove that the Facebook poster actually knew the person’s whereabouts legitimately?  Is social media replacing press releases and more traditional tools of PR? These are just a few of my questions, what do you all think?

Correction: Above I mentioned that Bulger turned himself in as that’s what the article I posted said, but I have since come to learn that he was lured out of his apartment by the FBI and apprehended without a shot fired in Santa Monica yesterday. A tip was received by the FBI as a result of their push of the tv ad on all platforms.

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