How social media harassment can lead to violence

25/06/15

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Vine, Tinder, happn

A record number of people have been prosecuted for offences categorised as "violence against women and girls".

The Crown Prosecution Service, which takes on criminal cases investigated by police in England and Wales, say a lot of it is down to social media.

It outlined a case where a man sent 700 messages to a woman he had met on a dating website after she had failed to respond to one email.

So when does it become too much? Newsbeat spoke to a psychiatrist.

"The issue of using social media is two fold," says Dr Karen Addy.

"People can become obsessed with receiving messages, in that they are constantly checking for messages."

They become "upset or angry" if they don't get immediate replies, she explained.

A Tinder conversation

"This leads to increased messaging behaviours and a vicious cycle of messaging."

She describes this as "checking then sending without any real social feedback cues, as you would get in normal conversation".

Sending messages without a reply can be seen as harassment
Image caption Sending messages without a reply can be seen as harassment

"Due to the speed at which messages can be sent it, can become very easy to send repeated messages in a short period of time which could count as harassment.

"An example would be where a recipient is busy or has no signal but the sender isn't aware of this and keeps sending messages as they feel ignored.

"They send more and more, in normal face to face or phone social contact this is less likely as the sender would know that the person was busy and try later.

"In stalking this would be whereby the messages are unwanted or the person has been told to stop and carries on."

What the police say

Some posts may be upsetting or distasteful or express an unpopular view but are not necessarily criminal.

Others may be grossly offensive and therefore could well meet the threshold for prosecution.

Others may be part of a campaign of abuse or credible threats of violence against an individual or group of people which likewise may well lead to prosecution.

If we consider a message or post to be potentially criminal, the police say they will take appropriate action.

This could involve arrest and bringing a prosecution, especially in those cases involving a sustained campaign of harassment or abuse or where someone's life is threatened.

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