Law Enforcement Perception of Social Media as an Influence in Mass Shootings
Mass shootings have been a persistent issue in the United States, and the underlying factors that continue to influence this crime are not yet evident. This study explored the effects of social media as an influence on mass shootings in the United States. Its purpose was to address the role of social media in spreading opinionated ideologies. The research question addressed the role of social media in influencing the actions of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States. The study framework was based on the social-ecological model to facilitate classification of the susceptibilities of social media users to adverse ideologies; 7 experts on mass shootings were interviewed in the study. Findings revealed that social media tend to influence mass shooting in 4 capacities: as enablers of the conceptualization process of the crime until the final act of mass violence; as facilitators of the individual or personal agenda of the mass shooter; as platforms that harness emerging technology for knowledge building during the planning phase and create operational efficiency for the final act; and as coordinators of group or symphonic terrorism. Government authorities in charge of combating mass shootings perform their tasks through actionable intelligence, legislation and policy, training of police and other first responders, mechanical barriers or deterrents, and brainstorming for new techniques and strategies. They are, however, constrained by considerable odds, which often come conjointly with their methods of crime resolution and strategies. Predictive technologies, as vehicles to fight or prevent mass shootings, have limiting influences on government action, particularly relating to the First and Fourth Amendments and the culture of hate that is nurtured and sustained through social media.