Are Criminals Advertising, Communicating and Recruiting on Twitter?

Beyond having policies and cooperation with law enforcement agencies, what more can a social networking site do to minimize criminal activity?

Some use twitter like an RSS feed, others use it for rant-casting. According to USA Today, Twitter is also being used as a communication tool for criminals.

“Extremists spread their propaganda via video. Gangs post their colors, signs and rap songs to showcase their criminal enterprises,” the article says. “Prostitutes and drug dealers troll for new customers. Teens trash a former NFL player’s house and brag about it with photos on Twitter.”

The authors provide several reasons for this growing trend citing a study from the Simon Wiesenthal Center statistic that “Twitter helped spur a 30% growth in online forums for hate in the last year.”

The Wiesenthal study also accuses Twitter of being complacent with regard to the use of hateful and abusive speech on the network, according to the article. Twitter’s defense? A link to a blog where the Twitter head of safety basically blames the volume of tweets and saying that “manually reviewing every Tweet is not possible.”

While it may be news that Twitter is being used by criminals and terrorists as a place to recruit and communicate, another study by China’s Beihang University indicates that the web might just be a fundamentally hateful place. According to the study, which used a Twitter-like network called Weibo as a test case, the information shared on social media is opinion.

“Our results show that anger is more influential than other emotions like joy,” the study says. “Which indicates that the angry tweets can spread quickly and broadly in the network.”

We can point fingers all over the place but the truth is that the internet and Twitter are simply tools which cannot be blamed for how they are used. Any tool can become dangerous in the wrong hands. While some think Twitter must be responsible for curbing inappropriate abuses on the site, Twitter already has stated policies against the use of its service for illegal purposes.

What more can a social networking site do to curb illegal activity beyond having policies and cooperating with law enforcement agencies?

Image license   Some rights reserved by Alan Cleaver

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