Police chiefs are reducing their use of social media due to foreign automated bots that they fear could unduly influence the public’s view of the service, a watchdog has found after work that covered Powys' force.

There are also concerns over other social media users misusing official police communications to fit their own agenda, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said.

Watchdog chief Andy Cooke wrote to the Home Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday to give an update on a review of activism and impartiality in the police.

It was ordered by Mr Cleverly’s predecessor Suella Braverman last year in her so-called war on “woke” policing.

HMICFRS found that most of the 43 police forces in England and Wales have reduced the number of social media accounts that they use, and it is analysing how forces use the sites.

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The letter from the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Mr Cooke said: “Many of the chief constables we interviewed stated that they have started to communicate less on social media.

“They cited two reasons for this. The first was the risk of other social media users misrepresenting or distorting police communications to serve their own agenda.

“The second was automated bots. These computer-generated accounts, many of which are run by hard-to-identify individuals or organisations from outside the UK, post large volumes of content very rapidly and may have undue influence on public opinion towards the police.”

HMICFRS inspectors carried out work in 12 police forces: Cheshire, Dorset, Dyfed-Powys, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Metropolitan, Northumbria, Sussex, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.


Some officers and staff were frustrated about force chiefs remaining silent over inaccurate political or other public commentary on ongoing investigations, and a perceived failure to publicise good work being done to keep people safe, HMICFRS found.

Mr Cooke wrote: “We also heard from officers and staff who were frustrated at how media stories about policing developed, sometimes involving political commentary, while the force remained silent.

“Often, forces did so to avoid prejudicing ongoing investigations or judicial processes, despite having evidence that could have corrected reported inaccuracies.

“Officers and staff were also critical of the lack of police communications about the good work forces do to keep people safe.

“This creates a vacuum, which media outlets and commentators may fill with speculation and information that isn’t always accurate.

“The recent inquiry into the police response to missing person Nicola Bulley highlights this risk.”

Lancashire Police was criticised for bungling its communications over the disappearance of Nicola Bulley, during which conspiracy theories ran wild on social media despite a well-run investigation.