APPA Position Paper: Use of Social Media as a Supervision Tool

Full Article

American Probation and Parole Association Technology Committee

Social media platforms allow users to engage with each other using the Internet to participate in, comment on, and create content, including photos and videos, as a means of communication. Examples of social media include blogs, social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and Instagram), and other location-based networks. Social media use has grown rapidly. Indeed, social media usage among American adults has increased from 5% in 2005 to 69% today (Pew Research Center, 2018), with, not surprisingly, 88% usage by young adults aged 18 to 29, the demographic most likely to use social media (Pew Research Center, 2018).

The advent of social media has made it much easier for individuals to find and interact online with others who share similar interests. All this drives discovery, sharing, activism, and influence. Given the prevalence of social media in contemporary society, it is imperative that community corrections agencies take note and explore opportunities to leverage this phenomenon in a way that supports their mission. For example, by monitoring social media activity, agencies can review client posts, identify a client’s friends and associates, locate those who have absconded, observe violations in real time, and generally keep better track of those under their supervision. While social media monitoring can yield important information, this is a relatively new area with little guidance to help agencies understand the corresponding ethical and operational issues.
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