More Social Media Crimes In West Midlands

5 June 2015, 08:21 | Updated: 5 June 2015, 08:27

Heart's been told the number of alleged crimes being investigated by police in the West Midlands involving Facebook and Twitter has gone up.

There's also been an increase across the country.

334 allegations of harrassment on the sites were reported in the West Midlands last year - compared with just over 200 in 2012.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said police and internet providers had a "responsibility'' to protect people online, while Facebook insisted it did not tolerate abusive behaviour and urged users to report illegal activity.

Staffordshire Police reported a 40% rise in crime reports which mentioned Facebook after receiving 1,269 in 2014, including 326 complaints of harassment, 13 rape allegations involving girls under 16 and 38 threats to kill in 2014.

Twitter appeared in 56 crime reports in 2014, up from 48 in 2013 and 25 in 2012, the force revealed.

Detective Superintendent Scott Jones, of Staffordshire Police, said: "Without trawling each crime it would be difficult to establish what context Facebook or Twitter played in each crime.

"However, it would be fair to say that like many other forces across the country we have seen an increase in offences online but the majority still go unreported.''

Superintendent Paul Giannasi, of the NPCC's hate crime working group, said: "We are working with industry partners and others to try to tackle the level of abuse, harassment and other offensive content on social media, but we have to balance the right to free speech with the need to protect individuals from targeted abuse.

"There have been a number of successful prosecutions against people posting offensive and abusive messages, including under new legislation making revenge pornography illegal. In some cases this has led to the offender being imprisoned.

"There is a responsibility on police and internet providers to protect people online.

"Anyone who feels that they are being harassed on social media should report it to the police via the dedicated True Vision website so that we can investigate it fully.''

A Facebook spokesman said the company responds to appropriate requests from police to provide information about illegal activity to help ensure the site remains a safe place.

The social networking giant said it does not tolerate abusive behaviour and operates a "real name'' policy so that people are accountable for their actions.

Facebook is "highly self-regulating'' and the website encourages its 1.3 billion users to report content they find upsetting or which breaks the site's community standards, the spokesman said.

Many police forces pointed out that even though Facebook or Twitter appeared in a crime report, social media may not have been used as a tool to commit an offence.