Editor’s note: The SMILE (Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement) Conference provides officers with all the technical hands-on skills and the practical knowledge to utlitze social media platforms for public outreach, crime prevention and forensics. The conference is a great opportunity for those involved in social media efforts to share suggestions and stories on this ever-changing topic. Below you will find social media tips from one of the speakers at the conference.

Social media has truly become the new form of communication for most people. Whether it’s simply to share pictures and innocuous thoughts with friends or as serious as a cry for help, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, message boards, blogs and so many other online platforms are the way for people in the 21st century to communicate their thoughts.

Although this can be helpful in thwarting a crisis, i.e. a student tweets that they are bringing a gun to school, posts of that nature are often disregarded by online “friends” as meaningless venting. In an era where outsourcing safety procedures to citizens is the norm (i.e. the “See Something, Say Something” campaign), it’s time for citizens–particularly parents, teachers and the youth–to be educated on spotting problem posts on social media. Suspicious posts must be taken as seriously as suspicious packages. Of course some posts will inevitably sneak through the cracks (as will some packages), but concerned citizens can play a bigger role in policing social media, not just by reporting problematic videos, but individual behaviors as well.

Alix Levine is the owner of WEBehavior LLC and the director of research for Cronus Global, both security consulting firms. She specializes in the study of homegrown extremism and online mobilization. Alix writes on a variety of terror-related issues, including the ideologies, activities and tactics of domestic and international terrorist movements, and in particular their online activity. Al Qaeda has directly referenced her work. Alix works closely with law enforcement on terror-related investigations and provides training and analysis for the law enforcement community. She received her master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University and speaks Arabic and Hebrew.