FBI launches latest suite of social media tools

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By Carol A. Clark

The FBI has rolled out a number of new web initiatives during the last few years. These initiatives include an e-mail alert service, syndicated news feeds and a series of podcasts and widgets that make it easier for the public to assist them in tracking down wanted fugitives and missing children, to submit tips on terrorism and crime and to get the latest FBI news and information.

The Los Alamos Police Department is open to the idea of embracing the latest technological advances as well in its crime solving and prevention pursuits.

“We already provide a way for the public to submit tips anonymously to us through the county’s website and we have used FaceBook at times as a means to monitor certain activities,” Capt. Kevin Purtymun said. “Any trend that helps efficiency and returns positive results is something we will pursue.”

Det. Doug Johnson explained that the police department wants to be where the people are and describes many of the current social networking tools as “excellent resources.”

“These technologies are being considered and I think it makes good sense for us to be aware and familiar with all of the technologies that are out there as they become available,” Johnson said.

Friday, the FBI announced the launch of its latest suite of social media tools including:

 • Facebook - where citizens can follow FBI news, check out photos and videos, and become a “fan” of the FBI;

 • YouTube – where the public can watch FBI videos and connect back to the Bureau’s main website for job postings and other content; and

 • Twitter – where citizens can receive FBI tweets on breaking news and other useful information.

“To reach out to the public, we need to be where people are – and we know tens of millions of people spend their time in social media sites,” said John Miller, head of FBI Public Affairs said in a news release. “Adding our fugitives, missing kids, threat and scam warnings, and other information into these sites is an extension of what we’ve done for decades – enlisting the help and support of concerned citizens around the globe to keep communities safer.”

The FBI is moving forward on other social media fronts as well:

 • More widgets - FBI widgets have been enormously popular, and they plan to build more in the coming weeks. “Our first four widgets alone have brought more than 2.5 million people to our website,” said Jonathan Cox, a management analyst in the Office of Public Affairs who spearheaded their development.

“And our latest Most Wanted widget averages more than a thousand views a day.” The new high-end widget was built using Flash, XML, and ActionScript and can be shared virally through social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Blogger, said Michael Litchfield, the web developer who built it for the FBI. “I was excited to work on it and thought it was a great way to market the Bureau to a new generation.”

 • Fugitives at your fingertips - A company called NIC – founded by an ex-law enforcement officer – has built a free “Most Wanted” iPhone and iPod Touch application based on the Bureau’s newest widget and fueled by its RSS feeds. More than 350,000 people in 80 countries worldwide have already downloaded the application since it debuted in February.

“Now, NIC is building a second-generation version that will use geo-location information to enable you to easily submit tips to your local FBI office,” said Harry Herington, chairman of the board and CEO of NIC. It will include FBI Twitter feeds and connections to its Facebook and YouTube sites.

NIC also is developing an iPhone application focused specifically on missing kids to include Amber Alerts, pictures and potentially live data to help law enforcement and the families of missing children.

 • Virtual billboards and kiosks - The FBI is doing pilot tests in Second Life – a free 3-D world inhabited by millions of people worldwide – for virtual billboards and kiosks that show the mugs of its Ten Most Wanted fugitives and connect people to FBI jobs, its Internet Crime Complaint Center and the wanted posters of cyber criminals.

The FBI intends to release more information on these initiatives.