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Police probes rise in crime on Facebook and Twitter

Soaring numbers of alleged crimes on Facebook and Twitter are being investigated by the police in Northern Ireland, new figures have revealed.

Thousands of complaints involving social media were reported to forces across the UK last year, including allegations of sexual offences, threats to kill and harassment.

The PSNI said Facebook appeared in 682 crime reports in 2014, up from 451 in 2013 and 226 in 2012.

There were also 14 reported crimes on Twitter last year, 15 in 2013 and eight in 2012.

The National Police Chiefs' Council 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.

A total of 38 out of 45 forces reported a rise in the number of crime reports where Facebook appeared in 2014, according to figures obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

Twenty-four forces said they also received more crime reports which mentioned Twitter last year than in 2013.

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Britain's largest force, the Metropolitan Police, received 1,207 crime reports which mentioned Facebook in 2014, up from 935 in 2013 and 997 in 2012.

There was also a sharp rise in crime reports which included Twitter, from 105 in 2013 to 138 in 2014, the Met revealed.

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.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on the figures.

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