Twitter is not the pointless what-I’m-having-for-breakfast exercise in narcissism that many people think it is. The Washington Post recently reported that gangs are now using it and rival Facebook to discuss their activities–thereby inadvertently incriminating themselves.
So, it’s a good idea for gang investigators, probation/parole officers, and other law enforcement officers to monitor Twitter to see what’s going on. Best way to do that? Lauri Stevens over at ConnectedCOPS offers Searchtastic:
Try searching Twitter with its own advanced search “feature” and you might come up a bit disappointed. Put in a term or hashtag and it will take you go back only a week and a half or so in time.
1. Search usernames or hashtags
2. You can pull up tweets from weeks and months back.
3. You can search on a particular user and the people he or she follows.
4. Then, click on a word in the search results and it modifies the search by the word. Once a word is in the search results, if you want to take it back out, click on it again.
5. And the clincher: When your search results look like something that might be interesting, export the results to Excel with the click of one button.
It seems like in ten or fifteen minutes, you could design a search, relevant to any investigation you might be working, that’s full of interesting terms and Twitter usernames. Export those results to Excel and cross reference them through your other database engines and maybe connect a few more dots. Useful?
I tried Searchtastic on the hashtag (a way to organize tweet topics) #webcase, which I used in November to live-tweet training from Charlotte, NC. The first run found tweets going back to October, but not my class tweets.
During my second run, without the # symbol, I found about six pages of tweets. Some came from Todd (who tweets as @Webcase); others from people who had “retweeted,” or recommended, WebCase or something we’d said.
As Lauri says, Searchtastic is in beta, so it may not catch 100% of what you are trying to find. As with so much when it comes to online investigations, best is to run the search sooner rather than later. However, Searchtastic does find much more than Twitter Search; it does organize tweets nicely by username; and it does allow for export to Excel.
Find out more on Searchtastic’s About page.
Christa M. Miller is Vere Software’s marketing/public relations consultant. She specializes in law enforcement and public safety and can be reached at christa at christammiller dot com.