Threat Monitoring on Public Social Media
October 19, 2022
The proliferation of digital conversations finds some users publicly posting harmful intentions towards themselves or others in the places we learn, work, and play. The UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) uses a product called Detect (formerly Social Sentinel) to monitor publicly available content on social media and websites for timely insights into such threats to our community.
Detect cannot be used to surveil specific social media accounts, access closed networks or private accounts, or monitor private conversations or emails. The platform is used with a commitment to protect our collective and constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of association, and freedom of speech. Implementation of this tool allows us to replace manual monitoring of public social media for threats or safety concerns with automated 24-hour coverage.
Using keywords supplied by the department, Detect monitors social media and delivers alerts on items that might affect the health and safety of our community. If an alert is sufficiently concerning, UCDPD would work with the social media platform or website involved to take any further action.
For example, in Fall 2021, UCDPD received a notification from Detect about a Reddit post where the user threatened suicide after a breakup. While other Reddit users responded with support and resources, UCDPD was not contacted.
UCDPD detectives reached out to Reddit to carry out an emergency search on the screen name. They were able to identify the student to conduct a welfare check and upon meeting with them, determined that the student was not a threat to themselves, and provided them with additional resources.