Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Crime and the Internet

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Crime and the Internet

Article excerpt

Crime and the Internet David S. Wall, ed. London and New York: Routledge, 200i, 22i pp. $24.95.

Most of the thirteen articles collected in this survey of crime and the Internet are by British authors who mainly concentrate on the impact of "cybercrimes" in Great Britain. Nevertheless, this is an important book for all users of the Internet now linked in a global information society. There is considerable attention paid to the theoretical clarification of issues, with the recognition that crime in cyberspace takes place under innovative technological conditions and is a relatively uncharted area of social investigation. What is known is that the damages to society in terms of child pornography, theft of services, invasions of privacy, personal harassment, and destruction of information resources are escalating in an intensifying whirlwind of electronically mediated abuse. This book, in its various contributions, seeks to define the crimes, the criminals, the jurisdictions and law, the interventions, and the values of social policy. The variety of viewpoints on the issues are not always in agreement. And there is even controversy over the identification of basic law and order on the Internet.

One preliminary position taken by the editor is to distinguish three conditions of Internet crime. There are ordinary and conventional crimes that are enhanced and facilitated by computers such as fraud and other instances of financial loss. Here, the computer is a crime tool that does not engage unusual motives or goals. Other crimes, however, are only possible because of the new information technologies of communication and are shaped by their electronic contexts. The dissemination of child pornography and "cyberstalking" harassment are examples. Finally, there is a focus on the future or crime not in relation to extension of existing trends, but rather as the emergence of entirely new crimes that are qualitatively di∂erent in content, impact, and behavior. The editor remarks that there really is no future definition when it comes to criminology's capacity to envision new crimes, especially in the arena of technologically mediated exchanges; yet the inevitability of unpredictable social impacts requires continued study and the development of new knowledge.

In seeking an approach to Internet crime futures, Ken Pease's article makes several recommendations for the development of a national electronic centralized governmental agency with powers to revise the criminal justice system in relation to the impact of the new technologies, review existing data for e∂ective strategies, and maintain a continuing monitoring of cyberspace innovations with a mind to the promotion of crime reduction and prevention designs. With an emphasis on "foresight thinking," prevention by limiting opportunities for crime and the promotion of non-criminal alternatives can help secure safe contexts. Unfortunately, specific applications and strategies are not identified, only general recommendations for a national policy.

The most specific listing of telecommunication crimes includes theft of services, furtherance of conspiracies, piracy and forgery, pornography abuses, tax evasion, vandalism and terrorism, investment fraud, "cyberstalking," and invasions of privacy. Against the increasing magnitude and scope of these crimes, e∂ective governmental and social responses are only beginning to emerge and there is considerable controversy over the kinds of regulations needed to contain crime without obstructing the desirable facilities of the Internet for ordinary users. Clearly, there is a need, as several of the articles note, for comprehensive statistical record keeping of o∂enses, victimization studies, and the development of self-help programs to provide users with e∂ective strategies for protection. …

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