THE number of crimes linked to Twitter and Facebook has risen sharply in the past three years, figures suggest.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 25 police forces in England and Wales showed that reported crimes involving Twitter rose from 677 in 2011 to 1,291 in 2013, a leap of 91%.
Reports of crimes involving Facebook went from 9,917 in 2011 to 13,019 in 2013, a rise of 3%.
Steven George-Hilley from think tank Parliament Street said: “The Government must do more to tackle this new wave of crime which is often intrinsically linked to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
“Every police officer should be equipped with the very latest cyber skills backed up by tougher sentences for online offences to ensure criminals do not gain the upper hand.”
The figures were provided in response to a request asking “how many reports of crime have been made which in some way relate to the internet site Facebook or Twitter”.
The research carried out by Parliament Street asked for information on reported crimes where the allegations related to Facebook or Twitter in some way, or the social networking sites were mentioned in the key details of the offence.
It follows a number of high-profile cases involving abuse on Twitter, including insults hurled at feminist Caroline Criado-Perez after she led a successful campaign for a woman to appear on a Bank of England note.
She said she had been through a ‘’terrifying and scarring’’ experience, after Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, were jailed for bombarding her with rape and death threats.
Sorley, who according to her lawyer was also a “victim” of new technology, was jailed for 12 weeks, and ‘’social recluse’’ Nimmo was jailed for eight weeks.
Football fans have also been warned not to vent on Twitter, with a number of arrests over anti-Semitic messages linked to Spurs games.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said no greater attention should be paid to crimes committed online than those elsewhere.
“Various police forces have been prone to heavy handed reactions simply because something has been posted on Twitter or Facebook when if it happened in the street it would be ignored. This risks seriously chilling freedom of speech.
“The last thing we need is the police spending more time snooping on people’s tweets and abandoning all common sense because something involves new technology. Social media is an essential part of how people communicate and crimes should be prosecuted the same whether it happens on or offline.”