Social Media and the Criminal Law

Social Media and the Criminal Law

A unique work exploring social media and criminality



Author: Alexander Heinze   | ISBN: 9781911611004 | Format: Paper Back |  Price: €Not Fixed | Publication Date:  2022


The emergence of social media has opened new channels of mass communication and expression. It is possible to reach an unlimited audience with the click of a mouse or the use of a smartphone. However, due to the anonymity that social media affords, it has opened new avenues for perpetrators to threaten, intimidate and incite. Social Media and the Criminal Law will make a cross-jurisdictional assessment as to whether the existing law is adequate for dealing with criminal conduct committed on social media sites in a manner that is compatible with human rights legislation and case law. After defining the social media landscape, it both describes and analyses how social media expression was translated into criminal litigation. Since there is no “social media law”, the author assesses how, in selected Common and Civil law jurisdictions, laws traditionally governing particular types of expressive activity have converged in relation to criminal activity such as threats, hate speech, harassment, bullying, defamation, indecent images of children and terrorism.

This book’s main focus is social media expression that plans and incites crimes, civil unrest and violent public protest and how this expression receives constitutional or human rights protection. Do human rights instruments protect people’s messages, tweets, and Facebook posts that encourage an audience to protest? Can social media activity expose the average person to criminal liability when these protests turn violent? In an age where existing law can be seamlessly applied to new technologies and means of interaction, this book’s comparative law approach to criminal activity on social media provides a much-needed analysis.

Contents include


Chapter 1: An Introduction into Computer Crimes

  • Introduction and Terminological Remarks
  • Computer Crimes

Chapter 2: Social Media as an Instrument to Commit Crimes

  • A Definition of Social Media
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Criminal Activity on Social Media Platforms—An Empirical Study
  • Categorising Criminal Activity Involving Social Media

Chapter 3: Social Media Statutes de Lege Lata Laws Governing Particular types of Expressive Activity in Relation to Digital Communications

  • Media Law
  • Public Order Laws
  • Targeted Communications
  • Administrative Responses

Chapter 4: Constitutional Protections and Restrictions, International Treaties and Supranational Laws

Chapter 5: Jurisdictional Challenges and Prosecutorial Discretion

Chapter 6: The Use of Social Media to Commit Crimes

  • Malicious Communication and Bullying (Threats; Hate Speech; Harassment; Bullying; Defamation (Libel) and Stalking)
  • Indecent Images of Children and Revenge Pornography
  • Incendiary Speech
  • Other Uses (Contempt of Court, Terrorist Material)


Chapter 7: Social Media and Civil Unrest around the world

  • Introduction
  • The Influence of Social Media on Flashmobs and Demonstrations
  • Reactions

Chapter 8: Criminal Laws Governing Riots and the Incitement to Riots

  • Criminal Law Governing Riots and Incitement to Riots in The USA
  • Why Criminalise Rioting?
  • General and Methodological Remarks
  • Criminal Law Governing Riots and Incitement to Riots in England and Wales
  • Criminal Law Governing Riots and Incitement to Riots in Germany
  • Intermediate Conclusion

Chapter 9: Riot Participation through Social Media

  • Laws Regulating Incitement to Riot Through Social Media in the USA
  • Laws Regulating Incitement to Riot Through Social Media in England and Wales
  • Intermediate Conclusion
  • Laws Regulating Incitement to Riot Through Social Media in Germany – The Applicability of Section 125(1) StGB to External Persons

Chapter 10: The Blurred Lines Between External and Internal Crowd Members Through the Use of Social Media

  • The Specific Dangerousness of Crowds and Section 125(1) StGB
  • The Method of Interpretation
  • Rioters Can Only Be Those Who Riot: The Application of Section 125 (1) Variant 1 And 2 StGB Only to Internal Crowd Members
  • Criminal Responsibility of a Person Acting in Advance of the Riot – The Spiritual Leader and Organiser

Chapter 11. Conclusion


About the Author

Alexander Heinze is a qualified lawyer and an Assistant Professor of law at the University of Göttingen School of Law. He holds a PhD in International Criminal Law, was awarded with the Trinity College Alumni scholarship and received his Magister in Utroque Jure (LL.M.) from Trinity College Dublin with distinction. His research and publications (in English, Spanish and German) deal with various aspects of comparative law, international criminal procedure, legal theory, philosophy and sociology of law, and include a book on International Criminal Procedure and Disclosure, for which he received several awards. Alexander Heinze is an elected member of the International Law Association Committee on Complementarity in International Criminal Law, book review editor of the Criminal Law Forum, has been working for the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court as a visiting professional and was an expert of the Committee for Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection of the German Parliament in the public hearing of the draft law on the abolishment of s 103 of the German Criminal Code (defamation of organs and representatives of foreign states).

Who Should Buy This Book?

Social Media and the Criminal Law will be of great interest to the following: criminal lawyers, police, specialists in IT and cyber crime, criminologists, policy makers, legal academics, organisations dealing with online abuse, website operators and IT users.


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