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Anna Mattalia 

Research synopsis: Comparative Study of Attitudes Towards Online and Offline Behaviour, Including Extremism, Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
Address:
 35 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9EZ
Email: anna.mattalia.14@ucl.ac.uk

Comparative Study of Attitudes Towards Online and Offline Behaviour, Including Extremism, Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour

2015 is the first year that cybercrime has been included in the Office for National Statistics Crime Survey for England and Wales, with responses suggesting that cybercrime has overtaken traditional forms of crime. Data suggests that over seven million fraud attempts and cases of computer misuse have occurred in the past year.

How people interact online, make decisions and use the internet is still not fully understood. As a tool, the internet facilitates user anonymity. The lack of face-to-face interaction encourages a greater degree of disclosure, while paradoxically decreasing empathy towards others. The former creates opportunities for abuse and the latter makes it easier to take advantage of these opportunities. As technology, especially the internet’s domain, develops at an ever-increasing rate, so does it’s prevalence. This means that the number of potential offenders and victims will also increase. The nature of internet means that cybercrimes can, and do, occur on a global scale.

Unlike the offline world, boundaries of morality, or legality, online are often not clearly recognised. A growing concern therefore is that people will commit crimes online that they would not offline, as they are not perceived as crimes. People are also less likely to report cybercrime to law enforcement.

Understanding how the online world fosters these perceptions and engagement in illegal activities (ex. digital piracy, terrorism and child pornography) and/or anti-social behaviour (ex. toxic online environments) means that law-enforcement agents and governments are better equipped to respond. Developing understanding also enables computer engineers to more effectively design programs and systems which discourage undesirable behaviour and protect legitimate users.