Calls reporting threats, bullying, and harassment on social media now make up “at least half” of the calls that British police receive every day, according to the BBC, which quoted Chief Constable Alex Marshall, head of Britain’s College of Policing, as saying: “As people have moved their shopping online and their communications online, they’ve also moved their insults, their abuse and their threats online.”
Indeed, social media may be behind an increase in the overall volume of these offenses, due to the simple fact that before you had to go to the trouble of leaving your home, or at least picking up the phone, whereas now all you have to do is point and click. Overall the number of incidents involved Twitter have doubled over the last three years, while incidents on Facebook increased from around 10,000 in 2011 to 13,000 in 2013.
Marshall told the BBC that in a typical day a frontline officer might receive a dozen calls, with half of them now concerning social media offenses, and predicted that soon “pretty much every investigation that the police conduct will have an online element to it.” As a result the authorities are giving special training to 6,000 police officers to deal with social media bullying, harassment, abuse, and death threats.
Last month Sky News reported that found that 19,279 British adults have been investigated by police in the U.K. over the last three years for potentially criminal activity on social media, including abuse, threatening messages, and online bullying, all classified as potentially criminal offenses under U.K.’s 2003 Communications Act. Out of these 11,929 were charged, received a warning, or were given a fine.
Even more alarming, over the same period 1,923 children, including some as young as nine years old, were investigated for the same offenses, and 1,203 of these were charged, warned, or fined.
Unsurprisingly the trend is only getting worse: the first nine months of the 2013-2014 reporting period is already setting a record with a total of 7,318 adults and 610 individuals under age 18 investigated.