Citizens Crime Commission of New York City

A non-partisan non-profit organization working to make criminal justice
and public safety policies and practices more effective through innovation,
research, and education.

Social Media Behavior & Real-World Consequences

Social media now has billions of users worldwide. Facebook, Twitter and other emerging platforms are integral forms of communication in our daily lives. We use it to bridge friendships, raise awareness, express ourselves, and stay connected with the world around us. However, with all the advancements social media offers, it also comes with dangers. Increasingly frequent reports of hate speech, bullying, gang activity, crime, and violent extremism facilitated by social media use are shocking, troubling and often result in real-world consequences such as school disciplinary action, loss of employment, arrest, victimization, violent attacks, shootings, suicide, murder and acts of terrorism.

As media reports have illustrated, social media interactions do not always stay in cyberspace. Often the ramifications of posted content spill into the real world. What at first seems like an unprovoked conflict is shown to have started or been inflamed on social media. This phenomenon is especially true as it relates to violence. In such cases, an unpredictable shooting is often foreshadowed by months of online fighting, bullying, and threatening "status updates"—warnings that were not visible off-line.

Social media users witness these types of posts every day and often fail to intervene; instead, these behaviors are validated and reinforced when users "like" the posts or respond with encouraging comments, meant seriously or not. Tragically, some of the real-world consequences may well have been prevented if a "friend" or "follower" proactively responded to a post or photo, or if users were educated on safe social media habits which included steps on how to identify, assess, and respond to potentially dangerous content.

The Crime Commission is engaged in several initiatives that seek to provide social media users with tools and information to help them stay safe both on- and off-line:

To develop a comprehensive understanding of the problem and identify possible solutions, the Crime Commission is analyzing and researching the following questions:
  • How do individuals use social media?
  • What types of communications over social media lead to violence?
  • What crimes are facilitated or publicized on social media?
  • How do the social media platform providers, law enforcement, and social media users respond to potentially violent communications?
  • What are potential strategies to prevent violence and other criminal activity online?
To support this analysis, the commission maintains a database of media reports on violent incidents that were provoked, facilitated, or publicized on social media. The Crime Commission's initial findings from this analysis are published in a series of papers titled, "Social Media & Real World Consequences Vol 1" and "Social Media & Real World Consequences Vol 2". Deeper analysis of how social media impacts norms and behavior are outlined in a white paper called "Social Media Impacts Behavior and Norms."

The Crime Commission works with a variety of community-based anti-violence organizations which work directly with youth involved in gun violence. We created informational flyers and a 40-minute lesson plan in order to help these organizations educate youth on the potential dangers and consequences of posting content on social media, and how to protect themselves and others. The commission has also created resources for anti-violence organization staff, with tips on how to recognize and respond to harmful posts that can result in real-world violence, and how to maintain a professional social media presence.

One of the findings from the Crime Commission's analysis is that youth involved in gangs and crews are taking to social media to taunt and threaten rivals, which often rapidly accelerates and amplifies conflicts among youth, and leads to deadly real-world violence.

To address this growing problem, the Crime Commission worked with our NYC Cure Violence partners and Dr. Shabnam Javdani at the NYU Steinhardt Department of Applied Psychology to create a new, proactive response, called E-Responder. The commission believes that in order to prevent violent consequences of social media interactions, we must intervene where youth are engaging in this harmful behavior on social media. Therefore, E-Responder adapts effective in-person violence prevention interventions for use over social media. This innovative program trains community-based anti-violence organizations to monitor, assess, and respond to social media content that may lead to real-world violence.
» read more about E-Responder

Media & Resources


E-Responder Evaluation: Cultivating Resilience and Sociopolitical Empowerment (2017):
» download the report

When Your Best Friend is Murdered: Experiences of Grief and Trauma with Crew-Involved Youth (2017)
» download the report

E-Responder Evaluation: Youth Leadership Program Results (2017)
» download the report

Social Media as an Opportunity for Service (2017)
» download the report

E-Responder Evaluation: Interruption Toolkit Results (2017)
» download the report

Social Media Impacts Behavior & Norms (2016)
» download the report

Social Media & Real-World Consequences (2015)

Volume 1:
From Virtual to Violent
» download the report

Social Media & Real-World Consequences (2015)

Volume 2:
Responding to Social Media Norms
» download the report

Social Media Statistics
1.35 billion = Number of monthly active users on Facebook as of 9/30/2014 [Facebook]
500 million = Number of Tweets sent per day [Twitter]
20 billion+ = Number of photos that have been shared on Instagram [Digital Insights]
1 million = Number of children that were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook during the past year [Consumer Reports]
70% = Proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds who have been the target of some kind of harassment online [Pew-14]
92% = Proportion of 18- to 29-year-olds who have witnessed some kind of harassment online [Pew-14]
88% = Proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds who have witnessed someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social media site [PEW-11]
47% = Proportion of people who experienced online harassment who confronted the perpetrator online [Pew-14]
22% = Proportion of people who experienced online harassment who reported the perpetrator to the platform provider [Pew-14]
5% = Proportion of people who experienced online harassment who reported the problem to law enforcement [Pew-14]

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