Simon Fraser University Social Media and Cyber Crime Discussion

User Generated



Simon Fraser University


There are less discussions and questions this week.

Step1: Go through and read the two Word documents (the first one insists notes from the unit, and the second presents a discussion about the unit)

Step2: Answer the question on the second Word document separately.

No word limit for each question, around 80 to 150 words are fine.

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Social Media Topic 1: Social Media Introduction to Social Media We probably all have some knowledge about different social media platforms. You may even have an account or two. We will begin this week’s module by learning about the 8 different types of social media. 8 different forms of social media: Blogs The term ‘blog’ is short-form for ‘web-log’. People often create a very topic specific blog. Maybe while trying to find a recipe online, you have stumbled upon someone’s food blog. The specific focus of that person’s blogs is all things food. Blogs can also belong to a group that has multiple authors who post regularly to their blog about a specific topic. For example, it could be a group of sport enthusiasts who blog regularly about game highlights. Entries made on blogs can also contain photos, audio, and video. Perhaps you have watched someone’s travel Vlog (video log) where they share updates and highlights of their travel journies. There is no shortage of blog services online; they are easy to set up & anonymous. Some blogs can be very personal and focus on personal thoughts or ideas. Other blogs can contain professional posts with research. Micro Blogs Micro blogs allow users to blog, but only by using very small amounts of content. Blogs generally allow users to share as many words as they wish to. Micro blogs will typically limit users by allowing them to share only a couple hundred characters per entry. Micro blogs can also limit users to only posting photos or videos. Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram are examples of micro blogs. Web Forums Web forums are an online version of a discussion room and the conversation can be viewed for a period of time (but usually indefinitely). The forum is typically organized into a hierarchy of sub-forums, which usually contain a specific topic(s). For example, forum topics can range from knitting, cats, and hiking to credit card fraud, drug trafficking, and hacking. Web-forums categorize each discussion into a “thread”. A thread is a chronological discussion on a topic where each person can reply to any previous posts. People are able reply to each others’ comments and this allows the discussion to flow. The image illustrates an example of a web forum. Label “A” shows the first message in the thread created by the user. Label “B” shows the replies to the original post. Label “C” shows a list of top recommended replies to the post. Most web forums will follow a similar pattern. Reddit is an example of a online web forum where you can explore different topics through various sub-Reddits. Social Bookmarking Sites Social bookmarking sites facilitate the trade in references (or “bookmarks”) to resources. These resources can be links to media, files, or web pages. The social aspect of this type of social media is the user’s ability to vote about the quality of a bookmark or comment on it. Many social media sites have a bookmarking feature. Facebook and Twitter allow you to share links to other media sources and permit other users to comment on the post. Pinterest allows users to create entire pages of bookmarked ideas that can be organized by topic or theme. Social Networking Sites A social networking site focuses on social relationships between users with similar interests or friends. A user will create a profile where they enter content and information about themselves. However, the focus is not necessarily the content that is posted but rather the network and relationships between users. Facebook is an example of a social networking site. Users are able to add and remove friends, make new connections, and find others with similar interests. LinkedIn is also an example of a social networking site that is used to support more professional and career-oriented social connections. Media Sharing Sites Media sharing sites allow for the sharing of audio, video, photos, and text with others. The focus is not on the written content, but rather the media that is shared. Users are invited to comment, respond, and react. YouTube is an example of a media sharing site. Users upload videos and other users are able to like, dislike, and comment. There are other more obscure media sharing sites. For example, LiveLeak allows users to upload content that would typically go against the community rules of other media sharing sites (profanity, nudity, violence, death, animal cruelty, lack of consent, etc). Wiki Wiki sites are created, edited, and maintained by a collection of users who volunteer their time. Lots of companies use wiki technology for their support sections. This allows the community to contribute to the wiki to provide information that will assist other customers. Wikipedia is an example of a wiki site. The site relies on other users to provide information about different concepts, topics, people, ideas, and so on. Wikis are not always accurate; however, many users will cite the sources of the information to help ensure information is accurate. Anyone can edit and anyone can add. Virtual World Content Sites Virtual world sites are online communities where users can interact with other users via a computersimulated virtual environment. Users of the site are represented by their chosen avatar. Users can connect and engage with other users through their avatar. Examples of these sites include Second Life and World of Warcraft. The 8 social media categories that we have explored are not mutually exclusive. Social media sites can represent the features of more than one category. For example, Facebook could be considered a social networking site, a media-sharing site, a bookmarking site, and a virtual world content site through the apps that are available on Facebook. Problems with Social Media Problems with Social Media: Facebook’s Algorithm I what happened in 2014 that showed how Facebook’s algorithm can be problematic: In 2014, Facebook conducted an experiment that was meant to explore how they could manipulate user’s emotions. Facebook manipulated the posts on 689,000 users’ home pages without their knowledge and discovered how to make users feel happier or sadder with the content in their feed (Booth, 2014). In the study, “Facebook filtered users' news feeds – the flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links posted by other people in their social network. One test reduced users' exposure to their friends' "positive emotional content", resulting in fewer positive posts of their own. Another test reduced exposure to "negative emotional content" and the opposite happened” (Booth, 2014, para. 3). In response to more positive comments from friends, users’ moods improved. In response to more negative comments from friends, users’ moods worsened. Facebook also learnt that when you are in a negative mood, are watching negative content, or are reading negative comments, you will stick around on Facebook longer and engage more. Thus, the more negative content they show you, the longer you will be engaged on the site and the longer you are engaged the more money Facebook can make by collecting more information about you and showing you more advertisements. Negativity --> engagement --> profit. The fact that you, the user, are worse off, is irrelevant. (Booth, 2014). The goal of Facebook’s study was to explore how to get more users to engage with their platform; however, the subjects of their study were not informed of the research and did not provide consent. Facebook manipulated their emotions purposefully for their own gain. Although this was completely unethical, and it was covered in the media, Facebook suffered very little for it, and continued to grow. Problems with Social Media: Facebook’s Algorithm II what happened in 2016 that revealed how Facebook’s algorithm was problematic: In 2016, Facebook’s “trending” box caused controversy. The “trending” news box shows current news (Borchers, 2016). However, the news that is depicted in the box does not fully represent all views and is presented with bias. Borchers (2016) notes that, “some Facebook workers who curate the network’s trending news section allow their own (mostly liberal) biases to influence which topics in politics — and everything else — qualify for promotion in a special box on users’ homepages” So, what does this mean? This means that someone else is influencing which stories we see. Although this is also true for news outlets, news outlets are charged with being impartial. On Facebook, a news-feed which we assumed was impartial, turned out to be not. Facebook’s News Feed is built by our friends and organized by our clicks and likes. Neutrality becomes nearly impossible. Because of this algorithm, we are not provided with multiple perspectives or counter-arguments. Our own opinions become reinforced as we continue to see information that aligns only with our pre-conceived beliefs. This can create an echo-chamber, which can lead to extreme views, and in some cases radicalization. Watch this video on digital echochambers: Problems with Social Media: Fake News the spread of fake news on social media Facebook and Google both know that the issue of fake news exists. For example, after the Las Vegas mass shooting, fake news flooded social media outlets. Here are some of the fake narratives that were spread across different platforms (Jacobson, Tanaka & Valverde, 2017): o o o o A fake news story was spread across Facebook misidentifying the gunman as a, “democrat who liked Rachel Maddow” Conspiracy-theory videos were spread across YouTube where it was depicted that Muslim extremists were responsible for the massacre There were fake reports of missing people following the shooting There were fake reports of celebrity donations to assist victims Why does fake news spread? Well, social media promotes articles that our peers are also viewing, in an effort to recommend to us videos which we would be interested in watching. These articles might not be accurate, but they trend. Fake news stories are designed to engage the audience. Algorithms are created to look for popularity and freshness, not accuracy. Social media monetizes clicks; accuracy is not a concern. Problems with Social Media: Children Children are socializing online a lot more than in previous generations. The increased time children spend online means they are becoming more disconnected from the real world. Many studies have examined the impact of online activities on children. One study found that, “teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy” (Twenge, 2017, para. 26). It becomes clear that with increased online usage comes increased feelings of unhappiness. Twenge (2017) also mentions that, “those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions”. This finding shows us that in-person interactions can actually increase happiness; however, the increased use of social media takes time away from in-person interaction. Even parents who work in the tech industry limit their children’s time spent online and some are even raising their kids tech-free. Here are some recent headlines that call attention to this issue: “Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids tech-free — and it should be a red flag” (Cheng, 2018) “Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids with limited tech — and it should have been a red flag about our own smartphone use” (Akhtar & Ward, 2020) “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley - I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.” (Bowles, 2018) What is the main takeaway from all of this? Social media harms children. Those who work in the tech industry know the harms that it can have on young, developing minds. Even though tech industry workers’ livelihoods depend on these forms of technology, prominent figures, who probably know better than us, do not even allow their own children to have access to it. This should be a major red flag. Video: “Facebook Harms Children and Stokes Division Says Whistleblower Frances Haugen” Video Description: “Frances Haugen, the former employee who accused Facebook of putting profit over safety, has testified before the US Senate. The whistleblower condemned the extreme secrecy and lack of transparency around Facebook and how its algorithms work. 'I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,' she said. 'The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.'” Haugen’s Allegations About Facebook Facebook’s algorithm intentionally shows users things to make them angry: “Facebook’s algorithm chooses content that’s likely to make users angry because that causes the most engagement. And user engagement is what Facebook turns into ad dollars” (Novak, 2021). Facebook is worse than most other social media companies: “Haugen previously worked at Pinterest and Google, and insists that Facebook really is worse than the rest of Big Tech in substantial ways” (Novak, 2021). Facebook dissolved its Civic Integrity unit after the 2020 election and before the Jan. 6, 2020 Capitol insurrection, ignoring the civic damage Facebook is doing to its users and democracy “It’s important to remember that Facebook isn’t just destroying American democracy, it’s chipping away at democratic institutions all around the world” (Novak, 2021). Political parties in Europe ran negative ads because it was the only way to reach people on Facebook Political parties would like to show positive messages, but they understand that those messages will not lead to engagement. “You are forcing us to take positions that we don’t like, that we know are bad for society. We know if we don’t take those positions, we won’t win in the marketplace of social media” (Novak, 2021). Facebook only identifies a tiny fraction of hate and misinformation on the platform “Facebook’s internal research shows that it identifies roughly 3-5% of hate on the platform and less than 1% of violence and incitement, according to one of the studies leaked by Haugen” (Novak, 2021). Instagram is making kids miserable “Documents leaked by Haugen show that 13.5% of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse, and 17% say it makes their eating disorders worse” (Novak, 2021). “Employees at Facebook aren’t necessarily evil, they just have perverse incentives" (meaning their incentives do not align with the betterment of society) “Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume” (Novak, 2021). Haugen even has empathy for Zuckerberg for some reason “But as Haugen herself said, it doesn’t really matter whether Zuckerberg set out to make a hateful platform. In reality, he set out to make a website for rating the hotness of women, but that’s really neither here nor there. What matters is how the platform is being used and abused today” (Novak, 2021). Topic 2: Social Media and Law Enforcement Overview To introduce ourselves to this topic, let’s start with a video! While the video is intended as satire, it really puts our willingness to publicly post our personal information on social media into perspective. Law Enforcement’s Use of Social Media The photo journal below shows how police agencies use their social media presence to create awareness and encourage community connection. Many people continue to rely on social media to communicate with others and find out information. With the same technology, police can build stronger community connections. For the most part, the days of going to a city hall meeting and listening to the police update the community about current initiatives and crime trends is behind us. Social media can be used to fill in this gap. Many law enforcement agencies use social media in the same style. Sample Social Media Pages Social Media Used Against Law Enforcement The photo journal showed us many examples of how police departments can use social media to increase their connection to the communities that they serve. There are also social media pages that are used to spread information that may jeopardize police initiatives. There are also pages that are created by the public to watch policing activities and call attention to police misconduct. Roadblocks BC provides information about roadblocks that have been set up all over the province. Usually, roadblocks are set up by police to find impaired drivers and to catch speeders and other dangerous drivers. When roadblocks are made public, many impaired drivers may choose another route to avoid detection. Those who know there is a speed trap may purposefully slow down before they enter the radar area and then resume excessive speeding afterwards. While some may find this information helpful, it can be detrimental for policing efforts to keep the roads safe. DTES Cop Watch is no longer an active page. However, it was used to encourage members of the public to call out excessive use of force or misconduct. The Utility of Social Media for Law Enforcement Police officers and law enforcement agencies employ social media to: • • • • • • • Connect with their communities, especially those that do not have access to traditional methods of community engagement Proactively monitor the community for disruptive events Give citizens another avenue to provide tips for crime-solving Deliver emergency instruction Provide traffic updates Promote special community events Ask for aid in the search of missing people What Does Research Say About How Police Use Social Media? Similar to what we observed in the photo journal about social media accounts for policing organizations from BC, research indicates that most police agencies in the US also use social media in a similar manner. The most frequent use of social media by police organizations was to notify the public about safety concerns. However, social media also serves other important purposes. Police agencies use social media to gather intelligence, communicate with other government agencies, monitor public sentiment, and train their staff (IACP, 2016) Funny Or Serious According to the IACP (2016)., police agencies on social media tend to be a lot more informal with their content and use more mour, when compared to more formal live press conferences. Police agencies recognize that the online world is different, less official, and thus almost always speak more informally and humorously online. Who Manages The Police’s Social Media Accounts? According to the IACP (2016.), most social media accounts are managed by a public information officer. This person is typically dedicated specifically to managing the account. Less frequently, a Chief Executive, or a community police officer, might be primarily responsible for managing social media for their organization. What Training Topics Are In Most In Demand For Police Agencies Trying To Engage Online? According to the IACP (2016 Links to an external site.), many police agencies noted that engaging the community was an important training topic. Additionally, other agencies noted that improving the use of social media and protecting the agency from liability issues (that are created by social media) were also important topics. How Can Social Media Be Used By Police To Identify Criminals? There are many ways that police can use social media to investigate crimes. One example of this was following the Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot in 2011. In the image below, click on the different markers to learn more about how police used social media to identify suspects who were responsible for committing crimes during the riot. The VPD was faced with a significant challenge following the 2011 riot in downtown Vancouver. There were many people responsible, and due to the chaos that night, police resources were allocated to attempting to control the riot rather than apprehending offenders. However, after the riot, it was evident that arrests had to be made to bring the most prolific offenders to justice. Rather than attempt to identify everyone by themselves, police decided to encourage the public to play a role in bringing the rioters to justice. The police had CCTV footage, but that wasn’t enough. They also requested over social media that anyone who was at the riot and had taken any photos or videos to upload these items online. By sorting through CCTV footage and footage provided by the public, the police were able to capture the faces of those who were responsible for the crimes that occurred that night. Once the police had the images of the perpetrators posted online, the public was called on again to help identify the individuals. Community collaboration provided significant help during the investigation. Investigative Challenges There are many challenges associated with using social media for criminal investigations. The same name game Many people have the same name, which can make it very difficult to find the correct individual. Content can be hard to access For example, if it is a private account, police would not be able to access it. To gather more information, police may have to look at their target’s friends’ social media accounts. If their friends have open pages, police can try to find information about the individual through other people’s pages. Open source information is fair game, but when it is not open source and not available to the public, this can create challenges for police. They may have to obtain a warrant if they want to access a private social media account. Even accounts that require you to be logged in might still not be accessible by law enforcement (due to privacy laws) without a warrant. Police might not be familiar with the tools Not all police officers may be knowledgeable about social media intelligence gathering and analysis tools. However, an increasing number of police agencies are now offering this training to officers to assist them in conducting stronger investigations. Difficulty in evidence collection If police do find evidence, the rules of evidence still apply. All evidence must be captured according to specific standards. Additionally, website content must be captured (in screenshots, or as PDF, for example) so it is stable and can be used as evidence. Conducting online investigations requires resources, time, and effort to properly process. Information Gathering: OSINT A lot of information can be gathered from public sources. This kind of information is called ‘Open Source Intelligence’ (OSINT) “OSINT is about searching for information accessible to the public, but finding the information that the public does not know how to obtain, and analyzing it in a fashion the public doesn’t know how to analyze” (Frank, 2011) Sometimes data can be extracted from the specific target. Other times, the focus has to be on the network of the offender, including partners or family members. The image below illustrates what kind of information is considered OSINT. Topic 3: Social Media and Crime Overview Criminals and criminal organizations also use social media and technology to commit crime. how criminals use social media and other technologies to commit crimes. Criminals use different technologies and platforms to communicate securely. By using end-to-end encrypted communication services, criminals can connect with others without fear of unwanted spying. Criminals use social media to target victims. For example, criminals can use social media to find people who fit a specific criteria and may be more vulnerable victims. We will discuss this in more depth later in this module. Criminals use social media to locate valuable goods. For example, if someone posts a very expensive piece of jewelry on their Instagram account, that person may now become a target of a robbery or attempted robbery. A high profile example of this happened when Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris after posting a picture with expensive jewelry in her hotel room (Durney, 2021). Criminals know how to conceal their online and offline activities. Most criminals will ensure they do not discuss crimes in any public forum. Any discussion of these activities will be done through a secured communication platform. Many criminals are aware that police may be actively monitoring their social media presence, so they are careful not to include details that would implicate them in a crime. Criminals can also use social media to find skilled labour. They may be able to recruit more players to their criminal organizations or to participate in their criminal plans. Gangs and Social Media Gang members use social media for a variety of activities. They may use different social media platforms for the intimidation of other gangs and individuals. In other situations, gangs may use social media to commit fraud or to recruit new gang members. Much like how non-gang members use social media to socialize, so do gangs and gang members. While they may comment on other friends’ posts and pages, they very rarely would expose or discuss details related to crimes they have committed online. Common Crimes on Social Media There are many different crimes that can be facilitated through social media. Scams Scams are very common on social media and they take many forms. Sometimes they may make it appear that you have won a prize and are requesting your personal details for you to receive that prize. Other times, they may provide you with a link to claim the prize. Upon clicking it, you are prompted to “Log-in to Facebook”. However, this is not actually Facebook and the attackers are collecting your Facebook log-in details so they can take over your account and scam your friends. Other times, people you do not know may message you claiming that they are someone else or claiming to be in trouble and requesting that you act immediately Cyber Bullying Cyber bullying is another common crime that is facilitated through social media. Refer back to the Week 5 module for more information. Cyber Stalking Cyber stalking is another common crime that is facilitated through social media. Refer back to the Week 5 module for more information. Robbery Criminals may use social media to find suitable targets to rob. For example, if you were to post on your Facebook, “I am going to Hawaii today! See you all in 2 weeks!” this would show motivated criminals that your house is a very suitable target. Perhaps it is someone you know who already knows where you live, or perhaps they are able to find your mailing address through other open source information. Identity Theft Identity theft is another common crime committed through social media. If there is enough information available, an attacker may be able to piece together enough information to steal your identity. Perhaps your date of birth can be found on your Facebook profile. Maybe there is enough information that can be found to answer security questions (i.e. make of first car, elementary school, Mother’s maiden name, etc.) and this can be used to gain access to other sensitive information (bank accounts, loan information, credit card statements, etc.). The person can use social engineering to collect more and more information about you, then craft a believable scenario that you’ll more likely to fall for. Defamation Defamation is also very common on social media. People can use social media to spread malicious rumours and lies about someone. Harassment Harassment is another common crime that is facilitated through social media. Refer back to the Week 5 module for more information. Examples of Crime Related to Social Media Below is a list of examples of crimes that were committed through social media: • • • • Phoebe Prince was cyberbullied to death on Facebook. One of her bullies wrote ‘accomplished’ on her Facebook wall on the day she hanged herself (McCabe, 2010 Links to an external site.). Camille Mathurasingh was murdered by her boyfriend (who flew 4,000 miles!) after seeing her with another man on her Facebook page (Daily Mail, 2010 Links to an external site.). A New York medical technician was found guilty of disorderly conduct when he took the photograph of a strangled victim at a crime scene while on duty and posted it to Facebook (Daily Mail, 2011 Links to an external site.). Burglar escaped from prison, then started taunting police on Facebook (Riviera, 2010 Links to an external site.). • • Man sells baby on Facebook for approximately $14k (Ghosh, 2013 Links to an external site.). A 22-year-old woman put her 2-year-old child up for sale for $1,000 on Facebook. She later upped the “deal” to $4,000 by including her 10 month old. Her hopes were to get enough money to bail her boyfriend out of jail (Flacy, 2013 external site.). Links to an Fake Messages from a Friend Attackers can use the personal information that is available on social media to convince victims that they are actually their friend or acquaintance. Once they have convinced the other person, they can extract information from them for financial gain. In the example below, the attacker posed as the person’s friend and said that they weren’t doing well and asked if they could exchange phone numbers to text. The attacker then sent the victim a code through text message that would give the attacker access to the victim’s Facebook account if clicked. The Spread of Malware Application and newsfeed sharing features that are built into social media can be used to spread unwanted malware, allowing phishing attacks to happen much faster. The links may appear trustworthy, but this is because they are spoofed (copied, imitated) to look legitimate. By clicking on the link, the application may collect your hidden personal information linked to your social media account, or you may be prompted to log in to a fake Facebook page where the attacker can now steal your log-in information. Facebook "Like-Farming” In the video below, the what, where, and why of like-farming is explained: 1 The First Step First, the attacker will begin by setting up a new Facebook account 2 The Second Step The attacker will then post something. Often posts are something innocent looking/emotional (like a photo of a sick child). Other times, these posts may be a free giveaway contest (share “to win 1 of a 100 Macbooks”). 3 The Third Step Now that the attention-grabbing posts are out there, the attacker will sit back and wait to collect likes or shares. 4 The Fourth Step Now that clicks and shares have been collected, the attacker can see their profits begin to roll in. But how do they profit from this? Here are some ways they can profit from likefarming: 1. Once they have gained likes, shares, followers, and have ended up on more and more newsfeeds, they can strip the page and change the content to something else. Often, the new content on the page promotes products or services, and the offender gets commission out of the sales generated from the page, which you will now see as part of your feed because you “liked” the original. 2. Alternatively, once they have gained the following, they can sell the Facebook account. The buyer who takes over may also start promoting products for commission. Facebook pages with a large amount of likes can sell for a lot of money. For example, a page with 100,000 likes has been known to sell for $1000 or more (Abel, 2014). 3. Attackers can profit by posting malicious links with malware. This malware could serve multiple purposes. The malware could steal personal information, provide the attacker with control of the victim’s computer, etc. 4. Attackers can also use Facebooks’ developer tools and collect data on people who ‘like’ the page. Facebook Cloning Facebook cloning occurs when an attacker uses someone else’s information to clone the victim’s account. Using OSINT, the attacker can create a fake Facebook account in the name of their target. They may take pictures from the victim’s other accounts and use them as their profile picture to make the new account appear legitimate. Now, the attacker can send friend requests in the name of the target. Once the attacker has successfully cloned the account, they can send their “friends” messages, spam them for malware, commit advanced fee fraud, and deliver messages that ask for their friends’ assistance (e.g. stuck in foreign country with no money, send me money). Because the victims will see the messages coming from a (cloned) friend, they are more likely to believe it, and fall for the trick. Topic 4: Social Media and Extremism Extremists have also taken to using social media. Terrorist groups, such as ISIS, have become better at curating their accounts and engaging with others. ISIS was highly skilled in recruiting people, funds, and resources through social media outlets. what the Institute for Security Technology Studies uncovered in their study that examined how terrorist and extremist groups use social media and websites to gain more traction: Propaganda Extremist groups use social media to spread radical messages across the platform and across the world. The groups can freely share their radical messages online. Recruitment Social media is an effective strategy to gain more members. Through posting in forums and pages with other individuals with extreme beliefs, they can recruit more members. Training They often seek out training or give training through social media platforms. ISIS was very effective in spreading videos about various training topics (combat, gun-use, torture, extortion, etc). Training packages were also distributed in multiple languages for multiple audiences. The training packages looked highly professional and well-written. Fundraising Fundraising initiatives to increase the amount of funding extremist groups receive are often facilitated online. The money raised allows the groups to carry out their extremist efforts (guns, travel, equipment, etc.). Fundraising can occur through donations or malicious fraud attacks. Communications Social media allows terrorist and extremist groups to communicate with each other more efficiently. Even if they are at opposite ends of the world. Targeting Social media enables terrorist organizations to conduct online surveillance and seek out potential targets, either people, organizations, or locations. Benefits of Social Media and Websites for Extremist Groups Mass dissemination of information: Groups can share information rapidly to anybody. They can reach anyone in the world with their messages. Relative anonymity: Groups can share information rapidly to anybody. They can reach anyone in the world with their messages. Uncensored media outlet: They can share their message without being censored. Credibility: They can establish credibility through their online presence. If they create a professional website, more people will believe in their credentials. Proof that the cause “matters”: When the material is online, it can become proof that this cause matters to at least some people. If there is an online presence for it, people can seek out this content and subscribe to these radical ideas. It becomes proof that there is a community that believes in and supports their cause. Low risk to group: The group members are not exposed. The risk to the group remains low. Examples of Terrorist/Extremist Websites Share stories and describe operations to other group members ( Some websites are used to share stories about members, describe their operations, or share current projects that they are working on. Provide analysis of recent events publicly ( Sometimes, websites will include content that will provide an analysis of a recent event from the perspective of the extremist group. Ask for donations to purchase AK-47 rifles ( Other times, the website may be used to ask for donations. The donations often go to fund items that the group requires to carry out their missions. For example, they may ask for funding for firearms to carry out an attack. Travel and fight the Americans ( They may use their platform to encourage members to travel to fight groups from other countries. Create virtual religious communities (Sageman, 2004) They may also use their website to create virtual religious communities and engage in religious ceremonies and practices virtually. Recruiting on the Internet: A Delicate Balance Extremist and terrorist groups must attract followers to sustain and expand their operations. Through this recruitment, they can cultivate homegrown terrorists (i.e. turn Canadians to support their cause). However, extremist groups need to be careful when recruiting. They do not want to be too open to the public. They need to remain covert enough to avoid having authorities gather information about their organization. However, at the same time, they need to make their presence known to recruit new members and provide information to other followers Stormfront Stormfront is an example of a right-wing extremist group. Their forum had over 1 million threads, 13 million posts, and 330,000 members. Stormfront is the largest and most active extreme right forum in the world. The forum has hosted some of the most notorious and deadly right-wing extremists since its establishment in 1995 (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2015 Links to an external site.). Stormfront is “a magnet and breeding ground for the deadly and the deranged”, with its members being responsible for approximately 100 murders since the site came online (The Southern Poverty Law Centre, 2014 Links to an external site.). Below is an example of a Stormfront thread where a member was asking advice on how to open a KKK chapter in Ontario. Extremism on Reddit According to some, “Reddit Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than Stormfront” (Hankes, 2015 Links to an external site.). Extremist sub-Reddits are known to foster echo chambers of hate. This means that when someone subscribes to these sub-Reddits, they only find information about extremist views. They do not have access to other viewpoints or counterarguments. The same message becomes echoed to them repeatedly, and this further confirms their preconceived ideas and beliefs without providing them with alternative beliefs. different extremist sub-Reddits: /r/Coontown: A congregation for white supremacists, deleted in August 2015 due to inciting hate and violence o o o This sub-Reddit’s banner features a cartoon of a black man hanging Example thread discusses “how best to bring attention to the assertion that black people are more prone to commit sexual assaults than whites” Videos show black men being hit in the head repeatedly with a hammer, burned alive, and killed in a variety of other ways /r/Googletown: Essentially the same material as /r/coontown, but with the word "google" instead of “black” (in an effort to make the racism more obscure, and invisible to keyword-based filtering). There are also many non-racist, but extreme, sub-Reddits: o o o /r/fatpeoplehate /r/The_Donald: “a 24/7 Trump rally that also serves as a melting pot of frustration and hate” (Caffier, 2017). /r/MetaCanada: like /r/The_Donald, but Canadian Conclusions Social media is a grand societal experiment, one that we cannot really control, and have very little influence over. Although Facebook is not the first social media platform to exist on the internet, the ones that came before it were less interactive, much smaller, and thus less influential. Facebook, a company not even 20 years old (being founded in 2004), counts almost every other person on the planet as its user. Its influence is humongous. People, criminals and law enforcement included, use it daily to benefit themselves. The challenge becomes: how do we use it? How can we use it safely? Not just safety from criminals, but from the platforms themselves, as they try to exploit every single piece of data (posts, photos, videos, etc) we feed (upload) them. Our content now belongs to them, and they will try everything to monetize it, to extract value, even if that means encouraging engagement through constant negative content, shuffling us into echo-chambers, experimenting with out emotions. The first step is awareness. Now you are aware. Please be safe. Discssuion 1: The lecture this week discussed different social media forms, how social media platforms can manipulate users, how law enforcement agencies use social media, and how criminals and extremists use social media. Among those several topics, I want to focus on social media and fake news, which were briefly discussed in the lecture. Fake news spreads through social media as social media platforms monetize the clicks of the users (Frank, 2022). This all occurs with algorithms; therefore, if my friend clicked and read the article, I would be more likely to read. However, fake news is more likely to be used rather than actual news on social media since news that contains misinformation is more likely to be clicked compared to accurate information, especially during the election (Dwoskin, 2021). Therefore, the more fake news is on social media, the more clicks they get, and eventually, the more money the social media platforms can make. The problem with fake news is that it spreads faster and lasts longer than the facts (Fox, 2018). I remembered that there was lots and lots of fake news regarding COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020. That news claimed that the vaccine is a "medical fraud" that is not useful for preventing infections and transmission of COVID and changes individuals' genetic coding (Frenkel. 2021). This information spread quickly not only through news but also through blogs, Youtube, and Facebook. Due to that information, there were a lot of anti-vaccination movements for a long time, and many people did not want a vaccine, even though there was news saying that more than 97 percent of hospitalized COVID patients were those who were unvaccinated (Frenkel, 2021). Moreover, as discussed in previous lectures, social media can also manipulate peoples' political positions through advertisements and fake news. This could increase the conflicts between people with different political perspectives as well. The current law regarding fake news is section 319 of the Criminal Code, which states that "(1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty…(Criminal Code, 1985, s319(1))". However, I believe this law does not include fake news with wrong information, such as COVID-19 vaccines that were not 'incite hatred against any identifiable group.' It was not intended to harm certain groups but still negatively impacted many people. Therefore, I believe there should be more detailed laws regarding fake news. Discussion Questions: 1. Aside from politics, do you think fake news on social media can increase extremists or hate toward certain groups? Why or why not? 2. Do you think Section 319 of the Criminal Code is enough to deal with fake news and misinformation? If not, what laws can be legislated to deal with those? 3. Since social media platforms' efforts to combat fake news are not enough, is there anything we can do to avoid fake news? References Criminal Code, RSC (1985) c.C-46, s319(1) Dwoskin, E. (2021). Misinformation of Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election, study says. The Washington Post. Links to an external site. Fox, M. (2018, March 8). Fake News: Lies spread faster on social media than truth does. NBC News. Links to an external site. Frenkel, S. (2021, July 24). The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online. The New York Times. Links to an external site. Discussion2: In this week’s module, we discussed various social media platforms and the effects it has on people, specifically children. Teenagers and other young adults are the individuals who have the most presence online. They are part of the generation who have grown up with social media and the internet. I believe that there are both positive and negative aspects to this. A positive element is that social media has created an abundance of new jobs and careers. It also allows people to express themselves and speak out about topics that they are passionate about. However, a downside would be that it creates a different level of negativity. In many cases, this hatred is often targeted at certain people or groups. If the hatred is directed at a child, this can be extremely harmful for their well being. Studies have shown that the more time children spend online, the less happy they are (Twenge, 2017). I also found it really interesting that people who have built their entire careers around technology (such as Bill Gates) would claim that the internet can be so harmful for younger generations. In the module we also discussed social media and its relation towards law enforcement agencies. Many police departments use their online presence to spread awareness on important topics and current events. They also use it to build relationships and personal connections with members of their community. Social media can also be a useful tool for identifying criminals. Since people are constantly posting online, this means that there is an abundance of photos and videos that officers can use for their cases. For example, in the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot, officers were able to identify many of the offenders due to CCTV footage as well as all of the footage that was posted online (Steacy, 2022). We also discussed the correlation between social media and crimes. Offenders often use the internet because it can be more discreet and secure. In many cases, it would be easier for them to conceal their tracks online than in person. They use social media to locate and track their targets. They also use it to gather more individuals to help them with their criminal activities. Some of the crimes that they commit include cyber bullying, cyber stalking, identity theft, and harassment. Discussion questions: Why do you think people (especially children) enjoy spending more time online than in real life? What changes can be made in order to make social media platforms more positive? Do you notice a difference in your mood or mentality when you spend a lot of time on social media? Reference Steacy, L. (2022, September 21). Police poring over photos, videos posted online during Vancouver Music Festival Riot. British Columbia. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from Twenge, J. M. (2017, September). Have smartphones destroyed a generation? The Atlantic. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from
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Discussion 1
Aside from politics, do you think fake news on social media can increase extremists or hate
toward certain groups? Why or why not?
Based on various cases that have been reported, I think fake news on social media can
significantly increase extremists and hate towards certain groups. Fake news has been a major
cause of incitement and promotes or justifies certain unethical things and racial hatred. Through
fake news, many people express intolerance through discrimination and hostility against
minorities and even migrants and persons of immigrant origin (Schackmuth, 2018). Such cases
have increased because most fake news stories comprise biased and discriminatory content about
minorities and immigrants. For instance, many Islam and Muslims seem to be associated with
negative things like extremism and violence in mainstream and social media, which depicts them
as a danger to national security.
Do you think Section 319 of the Criminal Code is enough to deal with fake news and
misinformation? If not, what...

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