The current climate of social media

A recent report by the cloud service Domo has revealed that every minute, Facebook users share 1.7M pieces of content, Twitter users send 347.2k tweets. and Instagram users post 66k photos. With so much data being generated every day, investigating it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The increase in users is only one side of the coin - the other side is the increase in the percentage of crimes that occur through these platforms.

Increasing number of users

In the last 12 months alone, 137 million new accounts have been opened on social media platforms, bringing the global user base to a staggering 4.76 billion as of January 2023, with users spending an average of 2.5 hours a day on these sites. According to Statista, Facebook has the most users at 2.958B, followed by YouTube (2.514B), WhatsApp (2B) and Instagram (2B). Incredible numbers that testify to the tremendous growth of this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, as the user base continues to grow, so does the number of bad actors. As illegal activity on social media platforms increases, the scale and variety of crime migrating into the online realm becomes increasingly apparent.

However, as social media companies carefully monitor cases of harmful content, appropriate countermeasures have been put in place. By the second quarter of 2022, Facebook had removed nearly 18 million pieces of content from its platform that violated its policies, including material related to bullying, harassment and fraud - with the number of scams circulating skyrocketing.

In fact, the ballooning number of scams has reached the point where they are now becoming commonplace. In a survey conducted by Lookout, users reported seeing a scam on social media at least once a week, with the incidence of instances varying by platform - Facebook led the way with 62 percent and LinkedIn was at the bottom with 31 percent.

Social media crime on the rise

The proliferation of social media users provides new opportunities for cybercriminals to expand their activities. In 2022, Facebook's parent company Meta discovered more than 400 malicious iOS and Android apps targeting mobile users to steal their Facebook login details. Many of these are photo-editing apps, and some are utility-oriented, claiming to offer hidden features not available on major platforms.

Instagram is now growing in popularity as a middle market for the illegal drug trade, with many buyers and sellers finding it easier to connect and do business through the widely used platform. According to an ABC News article, one seller claimed their daily sales tripled after moving online.

Meanwhile, the FTC reported that U.S. consumers lost $8.8B to scams in 2022. That's a whopping 30 percent increase from the $5.8B lost in 2021. While phishing and ransomware attacks remain high on the list, love scams are also proving to be a widespread problem - Americans lost a total of $1.3B in 2022. Sweetheart scammers use tactics to establish a false "relationship" with their targets and ask for money for airline tickets or urgent health issues.

Global cybercrime is expected to cost users a total of $8 trillion by 2023, and social media plays a significant role in that number. Since COVID, online fraud has grown rapidly, driven by the mass migration to remote work and the targeting of employees by cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive corporate data.

Echoing the specter of the turn-of-the-century Internet bubble, the rise of cryptocurrency millionaires has led to an increase in investment scams. Fraudsters are taking advantage of users' hopes of earning life-changing sums of money through well-timed investments. However, time and time again, these "opportunities" are showing themselves to be nothing more than daydreams, with reported losses of over $2.5B.

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