Crime and the Social Media Generation

Yes, blog trotters all, social media are fuelling crime statistics! Someone call the Daily Mail! Middle England needs to know! Paul Dacre needs to froth at the mouth! Actually (calm down, dears, it’s only a newspaper article) it’s been reported that more than 1,000 criminal offences involving Facebook came to light last year. See here!

Which provides me with the perfect excuse to post this article that I wrote recently. Who knows whether it’s been published. Perhaps I simply write stuff and the recipients are just too kind to tell me that it is quite startling in the limited nature of its quality. No. Couldn’t be that. Anyway.

I thought I’d make a list of the good uses of a social medium – as-it-happens updates, time-sensitive information, news alerts – and the bad uses – cuddly kittens, selfies, what you had for breakfast, lolz – and see if, anywhere, on either of those lists, was ‘notifying the police either following the committing of a crime or with the suspicion that a crime is about to be committed’. Do you know, gentle reader, it wasn’t?

So it was with a certain degree of slack-jawed amazement that I read about one particular incident, in which a woman, alone in a carriage on a train to (I believe) Southampton, became aware of a drunken male, getting all leery and inappropriate. She tweeted same, and, on arrival at Southampton (Parkway, probably) said drunken lech was promptly arrested by the waiting police. It is, apparently, not the first time that such a thing has happened – the forces of law and order being alerted to proceedings of a criminal nature all through the medium of twat.

And indeed, in one sense, why not? It’s a communication medium after all, and it seems police forces have Twitter feeds, and if you can’t remember @herculepoirot, then there’s always the distinct possibility that one of your followers will. But, and here’s the thing, why didn’t our lady on the Southampton Parkway Express a) call the police and/or b) move carriages? What convinced her that the best way to deal with this situation was to come over all twitty?

My suspicion is that she was probably a phubber. Which, for those of you who’ve been living under stones in the Gobi for the past four to six weeks, is someone who – in a face-to-face situation – snubs the other person by checking their device for messages, making or taking a call, or being antisocial with social. I conjecture that this person was so plugged into her device that speech or movement were secondary options to that of posting a tweet. It was simple instinct.

Regardless, the end result was the desired and correct one. But it did make me wonder whether – in a broader sense – we’re seeing the rise of another phenomenon of social which I shall call (because I don’t think anyone’s got here first) the Tweet Potato.  The Tweet Potato (not wholly dissimilar to the tuber of the couch variety and its televisual predilections) is one for whom all the world is contained within social and thus there is no earthly reason to engage on any other level.  Which, now I think about it, fairly accurately describes the thinking of an entire herd of social media gurus………..

The story of the police and the tweets, of course, delivers us nicely to a far more serious issue that threatens social media (reminding ourselves that there are, really, only two social media) and destroy any commercial value that they may be perceived to have had. The irony is not lost that, while the messages have brought the law down on the miscreant, the medium cannot (will not?) do the same.

Again, for those of you under that stone in the Gobi, we’re talking about the recent spate of Twitter threats, which escalated to the point where Stella Creasy MP was sent a picture of a masked knifeman, and other high-profile women were sent bomb threats. Several days later, Twitter said abuse was ‘simply not acceptable’. Apparently the website has also clarified its rules on abusive behaviour and put extra staff in place to handle reports of abuse.

What it hasn’t done, as far as I can see, is pass the trolls’ data to the authorities. Is this because it can’t – or is it a misguided respect for privacy? Either way, it reveals the dark underbelly of social and its utter lack of regulation. On this basis, would you want your brand associated with social media?

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