Behind the headlines, remember social media isn’t all bad

There has been a lot of coverage in the last couple of days of the number of crimes that have a link to Twitter and Facebook. If you believe the coverage there has been a huge increase in crimes related to social media. But if I do my ‘more or less’ (the Radio 4 statistics breakdown programme) there seems to be more to the story than you would think on first reading.

The information came from a Freedom of Information request. However, buried within the article was the line that put the whole story into context. It stated that the only way police forces had been able to gather the data was the search the systems for mentions of Twitter and Facebook on the crime reports. So does that really mean that the crime has taken place on social media? Absolutely not.

All it means is that when the crime report was being taken there was a mention of Twitter or Facebook. This could be because the crime has taken place on social media, and for some cases that will be true. But for most it will be that it is an incidental element to the crime itself. Take for example the case of a neighbour dispute. It will be happening face-to-face on a regular basis but then statements could be made, or threats, through social media. That doesn’t make it a social media crime but just a location that is involved.

The media seem to love any opportunity to say how much of a problem social media is, and to blame it for many of the ills in society. For this story there is definitely more to it than meets the eye. Just because many crimes will happen around transport hubs and railway stations doesn’t mean they are bad places. Likewise Twitter and Facebook are not bad places to visit, it is just what people do with them that is the problem.

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