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Number of Facebook and Twitter Crimes Rocket in Scotland

Statistics, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, show a surge in crimes relating to the social media sites Facebook and Twitter in Scotland. Five years ago, a mere 43 crimes were linked to the sites, but this number has rocketed in the last year with Police Scotland receiving 2,710 complaints.

The most common complaint relates to the sending of obscene or menacing messages.  However, a number of other offences were also reported, including sexual offences such as grooming, rape and stalking, and also allegations of racial abuse and reports of fraud.

Regarding the significant increase in online crime, a spokesman for Police Scotland said, “This is seen as a reflection of society’s adoption of such technologies and its acceptance of the online social networking. Police Scotland continues to evolve and develop to meet the needs of the people of Scotland, including online policing and community engagement.”

It is clear that technology is making it far easier for crimes to be committed by individuals in the comfort of their own homes, and as the figures show, the motives for doing so vary greatly.

Although users of social networking sites must agree the terms of service to create an account – which includes complying with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content – the reality of the situation is that it can be extremely difficult for authorities to bring offenders to justice, especially when they may in fact be defrauding or abusing a victim from the other side of the world.

While the international dimension may make some crimes harder to prosecute, more can be done by internet firms to protect victims at home from attacks instigated from online contact, according to Detective Superintendent Louise Raphael, head of the national rape task force at Police Scotland.

She spoke earlier this year about the “emerging trend” of rape or sexual abuse resulting from women meeting attackers face-to-face following an online friendship, built not only from dating sites but also from other social networking sites like Facebook. 

Currently, Westminster is fast-tracking new legislation which will give the Government vast new surveillance powers.  The Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is being pushed through to replace surveillance laws that the European Court of Justice declared illegal in April. 

The consequence of the Bill is that customers’ data will now be stored for twelve months by their Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile operators, for the sole purpose of law-enforcement. 

Whether or not the Bill is an acceptable way of gathering evidence for criminal convictions is highly debatable.  It will be interesting to observe the Bill’s effects in the near future – we can only hope that in the fight against online crime, sacrificing the privacy rights of every UK citizen was an acceptable and necessary means to an end. 

Charged with an Online Crime in Scotland?

If you have been charged with an online crime in Scotland, the criminal defence lawyers at the Glasgow Law Practice have the knowledge and experience to help you. To get in touch please complete our online enquiry form. Alternatively, you can drop in to one of our offices across Glasgow.