According to police in the UK the number of alleged crimes involving social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has increased eight-fold in Britain alone. During 2012, more than 650 people were charged and more than 4,900 offences reported in total; this is a huge increase in the amount of crimes related to social media, and police chiefs said the figures demonstrate a whole new challenge.
These offences not only include those posted on social media sites such as abusive messages, but also violent attacks that were provoked by these types of online postings. Apart from threatening messages, police also dealt with sexual offences, racism, and fraud.
According to the BBC, these statistics were released by the police under the Freedom of Information Act.
After a series of court cases, interim guidelines were issued, which were aimed at reducing the number of charges that might result in Wales and England. The conviction of Paul Chambers in 2010 was widely condemned and was eventually dropped; this came after he joked on Twitter about how he would blow up Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire. Back in 2008, there were only 556 reports of social media crimes; this in a time were social network activity was fairly low. Currently in 2012, this figure rose to almost 5,000.
Police are urged to priorities social media crimes that can cause serious damage, and Chief Constable Andy Trotter agrees: “We need to accept that people have the right to communicate, even to communicate in an obnoxious or disagreeable way, and there is no desire on the part of the police to get involved in that judgment,” he said. “But equally, there are many offences involving social media such as harassment or genuine threats of violence which cause real harm”.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer announced new guidelines on how people should be dealt with that post offensive messages on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. He believes that it is the higher end of offending that they need to concentrate on.