The Role of Social Media in Crime – Good or Bad?

Social media is something that has become an integral part of our lives. Though it is a tool that can be used for good, there is no denying that it has created new crimes such as cyberstalking and phishing. We will look at how it influences crime and whether there are any benefits for police services or society as a whole.

The Good

Social media has plenty of benefits for the police. Social media has significantly transformed our personal and professional lives. When it comes to crime, the police find social media a helpful tool that has assisted in conducting their investigations. Though each social network has its own goal and purpose, they can all be beneficial for the authorities when performing confidential parts of their investigations.

The first method that shows how beneficial social media is for the police is in sting operations. Sting operations are meant to catch the perpetrator while they are committing the crime. In sting operations, a police officer will pretend to be an accessory to a crime, such as a drug dealer, where after the perpetrator commits the crime, they are arrested. More and more police officers have started conducting their sting operations on social media, such as using social networks to lure any paedophiles using fake profiles. In the sting operation, the officer will pretend to be a teenager or child to make contact through the social network. The aim would be for the police officer to meet the suspect and arrest them when they arrive at the location.

All the information posted on social media is visible to the public. Police officers can be granted a subpoena to gather information and details on posts, even anonymous ones. Some criminals will go on social networks to share information about what they are plotting to do, set up their drug deals and even brag about the crimes that they have committed. They might even upload pictures and videos that might be incriminating.  Some helpful information might be complex for the general public to find, but the police might collect it from their suspect’s posts on their public pages. There has been much controversy surrounding whether authorities should be allowed to subpoena social media networks. Some social media companies will try to inform their users that their information has been requested, whereas some companies are more resistant in turning over their users’ information.

Many technological advancements have been made allowing social media to evolve. One of those advancements includes location sharing, which can be done through pictures, messages and video as they have metadata links that can determine the exact location. Location tracking allows police officers to find suspects. Through location tagging, the police will gain photographic evidence from crimes or search for hot spots of crime. Some social networks such as Instagram leave the location tagging option on, which could serve as an essential clue where the police can gain information that they could use for the investigations.

While it is evident that social media networks are beneficial for criminal investigations, they are also helpful for authorities as they allow them to connect with the public. Connecting with the public is crucial as it will enable them to make any announcements to their community and assist them in gaining tips that can be helpful for criminal investigations. Police departments gaining a social media presence can also allow them to engage citizens, which will promote transparency.

Social media networks also have the advantage that they have over a million users who also have a wider reach, which can benefit them if they are looking for a criminal. They will be able to receive up-to-the-minute updates.

The Bad

Though social media can help deal with crime, it poses some risks, especially for younger users. Social media has been able to facilitate new crimes such as revenge porn. While location tagging and tracking assists in catching criminals, it can also be used by criminals to stalk whoever they want.

Crimes such as threats and harassment or fraud and identity theft can be conducted more intensely using social media.

The other downside of crime and social media is that people are too willing to identify suspects for a crime that they might weigh in on social media. These ‘couch detectives’ can distract police officers and potentially lead to wrongly accusing innocent people.


Social media is complex when it comes to crime, as it has created some opportunities and issues when it comes to criminal justice.

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