The Importance of Social Media Essay Example

Social media helps us gain information from the real world and what’s going on currently. It can serve as a huge advantage by providing evidence to real life situations such as crimes. This debate leads to the question, Can Social media help solve crimes? There are many cases that have been solved with social media and it’s still used today to resolve many issues and misdeed that the law enforcement encounters on a day to day bases. Due to the videos, messages, and posts that are out there, nothing is really kept private, and Social media plays a important role in providing the necessary evidence to solve crimes.

In today’s world, technology is a big thing. Since nothing is kept private, everything is kept as evidence of any crime that may be committed. According to Kevin Richard Jones, “Criminals have started to use technology tools when committing crimes.”(8) Many people aren’t aware but social media is effective and useful. Likewise, Dinand Webbink, Judith van Erp and Froukje van Gastel state that “Internet and social media have created unlimited opportunities for police agencies to distribute media images of crime suspects.”(1) Many people may think that they have privacy while using social media, but it can be the total opposite for those who aren’t using it safely and effectively. In other words, things you say, do, or whatever you post will be kept or seen by people who may very well keep it as simply as “screenshotting” or “recording” and this can serve as proof.

Some people may contradict that social media doesn't do a good job of providing accurate information and may lead to false accusations. Looking more on the negative side, for many, social media is not a reliable source. People may trust anything they see on social media and information may be misinterpreted. False news on social media is mainly what causes allegations. For example, a shooter's identity may be mistaken and misidentified which can cause an innocent person to be blamed and charged for the crime. However, If everything is investigated thoroughly and efficiently through the police instead of what "he said, she said" social media is a powerful tool in providing evidence for certain crimes.

However, In today’s world, police officers are encountered with many sexual assaults going on in the media. In Social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are well known and used by millions of people across the world. Many cases have been recorded for online sexual crimes. This eases the job for authorities investigating sexual crimes. Since many of these crimes are done online, it becomes easy to access it and use it as evidence.

Social media is a useful tool when it comes to catching criminals and building a case against suspects when they have charges against them. Criminals aren’t careful with what they post on the media, and for this reason the police officers easily track them down with the help of information they encounter. Since major areas of crimes involve social media, police officers monitor these social networking websites to make sure they have everything under control. Many posts and “tweets” that are shared on the media are documented as proof to use in court to prove someone guilty while proving the other innocent.

Although social media is is gaining popularity and attention, it’s causing major headache for the law enforcement. Since social media users aren’t limited to one social network, and use various apps such as facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat and many messaging apps, the police benefit from the amount of information they find on the media. With terrorism being one of the major issues in many countries, they may be detected with the help of social media.

One way police officers and investigators use social media is to to solve crimes such as terrorism. Terrorism is widely spread through social media, and terrorists create social media to draw attention and motivate young people to join them. According to Kevin Richard Jones, “Though it may not be seen by the general public, many criminals, even terrorists, use social media accounts for a variety of purposes”(4) Terrorism is not the only crime that’s associated with social media. Gang members also use social media to form groups. “Gang banging” is a serious issue because there are many drive by shootings,assaults,homicides,etc. A way that investigators solve these crimes according to Kevin Richard Jones is that “ law enforcement officers can create undercover identities and connect directly with individuals of interest in an effort to access their inner network and gather even more information” (4) Social media is very helpful for law officers that are trying to gather information and evidence on a certain crime.

Furthermore, the most common use for social media are things such as sharing photos and personal information which can help investigators gain knowledge of their criminals physical appearance. According to Thaddeus Hoffmeister, “When using social media for Category II crimes, criminal defendants look for all types of personal identifying information about victims ranging from photos to birthdates to names of friends”(118) All information that is shared online is useful in identifying criminals. All of these personal informations are little clues here and there in furthering an investigation to know what the criminal looks like, how tall he or she may be, the ethnicity, etc. These details are a huge help for police officers and investigators.

Similarly, there have been cases reported for robbery and later on the theft had been identified due to the pictures that have been posted on social media. According to David Cochrane, “ The arrests relate to bank robberies and other thefts. In some instances, coverage on social media has resulted in suspects turning themselves in for fear of greater coverage and attention, particularly when their photographs are published online.” Interfering with social media can be a huge advantage to investigators. In cases like this, criminals are instantly scared of being exposed once they see themselves in the media, so they themselves in with hope that the situation will remain still and not uncovered.

Social Media can spread both negative and positive emotions. It’s mainly where people share their thoughts and show their attitudes towards certain situations. In a recent article, Vladimir Bejan, Matthew Hickman, William S. Parkin and Veronica F. Pozo state that “Both traditional and social media can act as an emotional contagion, spreading fear, anger and other negative effects in addition to pure information. Social media has been shown to directly impact the emotions of those consuming it.”(23) This would help reveal any sketchy situation that a criminal might be facing. For example, someone who just committed a crime may feel guilt, fear, or shame, and they may find social media as a place to pour out their feelings. Even though they may not state what they’ve done, they can give off certain clues here and there that would help investigators detect that he or she is the possible person in charge of that certain crime.

If there is evidence hinting at the police officers in social media, investigators will be alarmed, and they will take everything into account. Aziz Douai and Barbara Perry states that ‘If it bleeds, it leads’’ captures the complicated relationship between modern mass media and crime” (98) Which is very true because if there are no pictures, posts, or conversations then there’s no evidence. But, if there are various leading evidences, then there’s certainly something going on.

Since Social Media is very effective when it comes to crime solving, one major thing on social media that useful for Police officers is the physical appearance of the criminals such as photos because it helps discover their background and attain more information from that. For example, when there are photos and any personal information on social media, it gets very easy to track someones identity. Martin Inne states that “The media has become an increasingly important element of the modern crime investigation system.” (30) When someone shares their current location, they can be tracked down and caught easily. Many people are able to share information that’s out there for the police to investigate. Lieutenant Frank Hichens supports this by stating “ Now the everyday amateur citizen could take videos via smart phones, and report on stories they witnessed by posting these videos on social media.” (3) Basically, anyone can share information that can help solve a certain crime.

Similarly, police officers are encountered with many sexual assaults going on in the media. In Social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are well known and used by millions of people across the world. Many cases have been recorded for online sexual crimes. As social media expands, so do crime rates. This eases the job for authorities investigating sexual crimes. Since many of these crimes are done online, it becomes easy to access it and use it as evidence.

Furthermore, one of the most known things such as sharing photos, and personal information can help investigators gain knowledge of their criminals physical appearance. According to Thaddeus Hoffmeister, “When using social media for Category II crimes, criminal defendants look for all types of personal identifying information about victims ranging from photos to birthdates to names of friends”(118) All information that is shared online is useful in identifying criminals. All of these personal informations are little clues here and there in furthering an investigation to know what the criminal looks like, how tall he or she may be, the ethnicity, etc. These details are a huge help for police officers and investigators.

It is important to note the impact of social media on crime has been huge, but before social media existed, normal research was conducted in order to solve certain crimes. Social media actually helps the law enforcement and provides a good amount of evidence, but it wasn’t always around for the police to use. Once social media started expanding, the law enforcement started to benefit from this in legal cases.

Before social media existed and even after social media, crimes are solved with the most obvious evidences. Things such as hair, spit, fingerprint and any other form of DNA led to evidence for the investigators. A very good example of this was introduced by James Osterberg claiming, “The best known example is that of a latent fingerprint developed at the crime scene which is identified with a recognized fingerprint already classified in some file or which was obtained from a suspect expressly for the purpose of comparison with the latent print.” (431.) Ostenburg makes a really good point with the type of evidence he provides. Many and almost nearly all of the world wide crimes are identified through the help of fingerprints.

Even though it seems as if many crimes are connected through social media, often times, with no social media involved, police officers use basic DNA testing, bullet testing and any witnesses to help them determine the cause of a certain crime. Not all crimes are tied to social

media, and many crime offenders are clever enough not to post their business on social media because they know it’s very easy to track a criminal down through the use of social media. With this being said, Investigators use many small clues left behind, such as the type of bullet that was used, or anyone that might have witnessed the crime or know any information about it.

Even though social media are used successfully in solving crimes, it may not be effective in all cases. While social media helps provide evidence such as photos, location or any crime related posts, it can also expose one’s privacy. Gwendolyn Waters agrees that “By increasing

exposure of personal information, social media has raised the threat level” (5) Waters agrees that social media is negatively impacting one’s life in terms of privacy. He goes on by stating “Individuals sometimes create screen names or new identities that allow them to act outside their normal inhibitions and sometimes participate in caustic and less ethical activities they otherwise would avoid.”(6) Waters agrees that social media is promoting bad behavior and encourages others to act out.

One of the ways in which social media can be used in a negative way is to show provide videos or photos that may scare people away from the police. According to Sun, I. Y., Wu, Y., Triplett, R., and Wang, S. K., “A growing number of studies have also linked the media to negative evaluations of the police”(696) Things such as negative posts and videos that are shared about certain crimes and police involved may scare of people and lower their trust in police officers. There are many things happening across the world, such as police shootings, or innocent people dying, and with the use of social media, police officers may seem like they’re the ones behind it which causes the public to hold fear towards the police.

There are two sides to social media. The good and the bad. There are many positive outcomes of social media if its used properly, but as it benefits the police, it can hurt them in many ways. According to Richard Ericson, ““While mass media provides the police with practical and ideological assistance, they also create trouble for them “(224)” Ericson helps explain how false information that is seen in the media can cause inconvenience for the police. Often times social media may cause concerns and affect others thoughts on crime. It can also act as a contagion when it’s involved with police and crime. Social media use in crime may result in false information and lead to innocent people being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, but there many times cases are evaluated with care to make sure that nothing is misinterpreted.

Even though social media concentrates on many areas of crime, let’s not forget that cyberbullying has seemed to be taking over social media because it’s all over the place. Many people are getting death threats, being stalked, disturbed with their own privacy, etc. Even though there is no age limit, it seems to be that many kids and teens are being bullied more.

According to O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson, “One of the most talked about risks of social media use among teenagers is Cyberbullying and online harassment, which is defined as “deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person”(3) O’Keefe and Clarke Pearson help explain all ways in which people misuse social media in negative ways and how it may seem “legal” but it’s still considered to be cyberbullying.

Cyberstalking often times may lead to rape. Many people who oftentimes are being stalked on social media face rape. Majority of the population that’s affected with cyberstalking are teens.

According to Robert J. Higdon, Jr., “WILLIAM SCOTT DAVIS, JR., a 57-year-old resident of Hampton, Virginia, was sentenced by Senior Judge W. Earl Britt to 144 months imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release after having been convicted of cyberstalking and communicating interstate threats.” (1) Cyberstalking concentrates on the many areas of crime which is very important in finding the criminal and charging them with the crimes they’ve committed.

More often than not, people are bullied online psychologically. According to Cynthia Van HeeI, Gilles Jacobs, Chris Emmery , Bart Desmet , Els Lefever , Ben Verhoeven, Guy De Pauw , Walter Daelemans and Ve´ronique Hoste, “The goal of the current research was to investigate the automatic detection of cyber bullying related posts on social media. Given the information overload on the web, manual monitoring for cyber bullying has become unfeasible. Automatic detection of signals of cyber bullying would enhance moderation and allow to respond quickly when necessary.” (17) In other words, special machines were created to help detect any type of bullying going on and this helped prevent many cases and catch many bullies to save victims. It’s more severe than it sounds, there are many cases of suicide due to cyberbullying, that’s exactly why there are laws and policies over this situation.

Cyberstalking and cyberbullying can potentially ruin a person’s life. Martin, Florence, Et al all agree that “Signs of cyberbullying are when kids harass or embarrass others publicly, spread rumors, post hurtful information or images online, or say mean things that humiliate others in public.”(3) This statement is very true because bullying in general can lead to many holes and burdens in a person’s life. Social media has a very huge impact in the crime world today, but it also deals with things such as cyberbullying that may not seem illegal. The reason for why concentrating on this specific area of social media use is important because cyberbullying and cyberstalking is what leads to many crimes.

Not only does social media solve major murder, rape and terrorism crimes, but it also helps find missing children. Since social media is gaining popularity and interest of many people, anything that happens is quickly spread through social media. Police officers may often times post pictures and information of missing children on social media so that anyone who has seen the child can immediately contact the law enforcement to let them know. Police officers also use the media to alert people of any suspicious and dangerous activity that’s going on in many neighborhood areas. Police officers use social media just like any other person would, and it can benefit them more than it can hurt them.

Overall, social media is a powerful tool when it comes to helping the law enforcement officers in crime detection. As mentioned before, there are many benefits of social media for the police and for the community. Since social media helps provide evidence, it’s a huge help for the law enforcement in legal cases. Social media helps the police unite with the community as well as helping helps citizens take precautions for any suspicious activity in order to prevent them from being encountered with any bad situations.


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