Facebook crime rises 19% as government introduces code of conduct

As the Daily Telegraph reports that social media sites will face a new government code of conduct, indepdent police figures show that Facebook crimes have rocketed by 19% in a single year, with harassment, sexual offences and malicious communications included in the 32,451 incidents

by Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor on 22 January 2020 10:29

There have been a total of 55,643 crimes linked to Facebook, according to official police figures. The news comes following the revelation that social media firms will be legally required to protect children from harmful content under the first-ever code to police the internet, according to front page news in The Daily Telegraph.

The data was obtained under FOI legislation by the Parliament Street think tank showed in financial year 2019-20 there were 32,451 crimes recorded by 20 police forces which provided data, an increase of 19% compared to the year before. Leicestershire Police reported the highest number of incidents with 10,405 Facebook-linked crimes.

Of this figure, 408 of which related to the victim being a ‘vulnerable person,’ according to the accompanying police notes. The next highest was Lancashire Constabulary with 8,829 crimes reported. Of this figure 1,497 were recorded as malicious communication, 1,007 as offensive messages and 718 were recorded as harassment.

A further 179 were listed as as sexual offences. West Yorkshire Police reported 8,597 crimes, 351 of which were sexual offences. Surrey Police reported 7,933 crimes in total, 774 incidents were logged as malicious communication and 591 linked to harassment. Meanwhile Greater Manchester Police reported 8,230 crimes, many of which involved ‘engaging in sexual activity with a child’.

Tim Dunton, MD, Nimbus Hosting told The Commentator: “Tighter regulation for social media sites is long overdue, particularly with so many crimes taking place across these platforms. However, it’s vital that the proposed code of conduct is enforced proportionately and isn’t used to stifle free speech or damage user experiences online. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can play a huge role in fundraising and campaigning for important causes, but in recent years have also become a hotbed of bullying and harassment. Tackling this issue requires a much more proactive approach from technology giants to monitor and address misuse and bad behaviour swiftly and sensibly.”

Cyber security chief Andy Heather, Vice President of Centrify said: “Social media sites are seeing a major surge in criminal activity with perpetrators assuming they can avoid detection using fake profiles and stolen log-in details, often obtained via the dark web. This new wave of crime poses huge challenges for police officers, who are tasked with identifying those responsible whilst protecting vulnerable victims in complex circumstances.

Heather continued, "Tackling this growing threat means ensuring officers of every rank are properly supported with the latest cyber skills training, so they are up to speed with online threats and can quickly identify and convict those responsible.”

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