Twitter escalates embassy protests, warns DPG

The DPG Security Liaison Unit

Social media has increased the risk of an embassy protest escalating out of control, officers of the Security Liaison Unit (SLU) warned embassy security officers at a DPG seminar.

Diplomats were shown a film to illustrate how the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has made protests much easier to organise and harder to contain. Under UK law, there is no obligation to inform the police of a static demonstration.

Officers urged diplomatic security staff to “think strategically” by monitoring social media and to contact the Met Police Control Room as soon as crowds gathered outside their premises so that a security team could be despatched to prevent a protest escalating.

SLU officers appealed to missions to provide building plans so that they could react quickly if there was a security breach.

All missions, even those from countries where the security threat was low, were also advised to conduct a security survey of their building to identify any vulnerabilities.

Cyber crime was another growing security threat and missions were urged to put in place proper IT security measures and protocols. Diplomats were also advised not to include personal information on social media sites.

In the event of mass casualty event, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, embassy staff were informed about Project Hermes, a joint FCO-DPG initiative to give missions real-time information via text, email or the DPG’s Secure Bulletin Board.

The seminar also included a simulation of a crisis to test embassies’ emergency and business continuity plans.

Neil Collyer of FCO Protocol appealed to all missions to ensure that the FCO and DPG had up-to-date emergency contact details.

This will be critical in 2014 when the UK hosts a series of important global summits attracting a lot of VIP visitors who would need to be protected.