Offensive communications: exploring the challenges involved in policing social media

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The digital revolution has transformed the potential reach and impact of criminal behaviour. Not only has it changed how people commit crimes but it has also created opportunities for new types of crimes to occur. Policymakers and criminal justice institutions have struggled to keep pace with technological innovation and its impact on criminality. Criminal law and justice, as well as investigative and prosecution procedures, are often outdated and ill-suited to this type of criminality as a result. While technological solutions are being developed to detect and prevent digitally-enabled crimes, generic solutions are often unable to address the needs of criminal justice professionals and policymakers. Focussing specifically on social media, this article offers an exploratory investigation of the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach used to police offensive communications online. Drawing on twenty in-depth interviews with key criminal justice professionals in the United Kingdom, the authors discuss the substantial international challenges facing those seeking to police offensive social media content. They argue for greater cooperation between policymakers, social science and technology researchers to develop workable, innovative solutions to these challenges, and greater use of evidence to inform policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-240
Number of pages14
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number2
Early online date03 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • Social Media
  • Policing
  • Offensiveness
  • Digital Policing
  • Offensive Content Online


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