FBI Uses Social Media To Search for Fugitive Who Inspired “The Departed”

Many advertisers have included social media outreach in their campaigns for years, but Wednesday’s arrest of fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger illustrates how the FBI is also a convert to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The law enforcement agency launched a campaign in 14 cities on Monday aiming to help agents catch Bulger, the Boston mobster who had been on the lam for 16 years and was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in the 2006 film The Departed. The campaign included outreach on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. By Wednesday evening, the feds had their man: Bulger surrendered in Santa Monica, California. The FBI announced the arrest on Twitter:

Before we give too much credit to social media, though, it should be noted that Bulger was ultimately done in by a TV ad. The ad, which appears above and targets Bulger’s companion, Catherine Greig, was also placed on the FBI’s Facebook Page on Monday. It was also loaded to the agency’s YouTube Channeland referenced in its Twitter feed.

The FBI began using social media in 2009, when it set up shopon Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “To reach out to the public, we need to be where people are—and we know tens of millions of people spend their time in social media sites,” said John Miller, head of FBI Public Affairs, in a statement at the time. Prior to that, a company called NIC, which was founded by a former law enforcement officer, introduced a Most Wanted iPhone app that displayed the agency’s “Most Wanted” list.

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