The turn of the millennium has brought great technological advances, and with this comes social media. This has impacted society in a number of ways, particular in the enhancement and centralisation of hate crime.
Community tensions are tensions between different groups in society that raise the levels of fear and anxiety, threaten the peace and stability of communities and may potentially lead to disorder.
Some tensions will potentially manifest in more visible and generally higher profile aspects of disorder, disturbance, damage, physical violence and loss of life. Other tensions may be less visible, more subtle and affect parts of the community and groups who may be fearful of going about their daily lives as a result of particular attitudes and behaviours which affect them. There may or not be the potential for physical violence, but the common issue is that people feel vulnerable, exposed and excluded, often related to their identity.
The premise of the tension monitoring approach is that there are often indications of rising tension, which, if identified soon enough, could lead to early intervention and the prevention or reduction of violence and hate crime. It is about being ‘early and upstream’.
This project aims to:
(a) Evaluate the utility of social media communications for tension and cohesion monitoring within local communities, and
(b) Evaluate the role of positive social media narratives in curtailing spikes in negative narratives in the aftermath of an event.
The objectives of the project are:
- To identify a series of events in Wales around which on and offline tension and cohesion monitoring can be deployed;
- To use social media monitoring techniques to gather information on tension and cohesion around these events (recording both negative narratives, and the positive narratives that tend to occur in the aftermath of events);
- To compare the data generated from social media with conventional terrestrial tension and cohesion monitoring outcomes;
- To analyse the dynamics of positive social media narratives in the aftermath of an event, and the impact this has on type and duration of the spike in negative social media narratives
- To interview members of the local community, police, local government and third sector organisations to gather perceptions of both on and offline tension and cohesion monitoring outcomes.
- To develop a Community Tension and Cohesion Monitoring Dashboard for use by community cohesion teams and coordinators.
The project will build on the existing Police online tension monitoring system that affords users with the ability to monitor social media data streams for signs of high tension which can be analysed in order to identify deviations from the ‘norm’ (levels of cohesion/low tension). The project will focus on monitoring opinions on and relations with communities of people with protected characteristics (including monitoring of hate speech and extremist narratives). This project will further develop and apply this technique of online tension monitoring in several event-based case studies within local communities in Wales. Online data gathered around the events will be compared to offline sources from Police, Local Authority, Welsh Government (e.g. crime statistics, community reports from wardens, gang and turf conflicts, demands for housing, political extremism and the like) to identify similarities and deviations. The comparison of on and offline outcomes will be used as the basis of at least 40 interviews with the local community, police, local government and third sector organisations to gather perceptions of the process and generate a set of recommendations moving forward.
- Engagement by the researcher throughout the studentship with the development of policy and practice in relation to community cohesion, including input where appropriate to support the delivery of the Community Cohesion National Delivery Plan;
- A report evaluating the utility and reliability of social media data for monitoring community tension and cohesion (including the production and spread of extremist and hateful narratives);
- A report evaluating the role of positive counter-narratives in the aftermath of an event;
- In the event that social media tension monitoring proves useful, and Community Tension and Cohesion Monitoring Dashboard will be developed for use by multi-agency teams, including the Police and Local Authorities.