Crime is a continuous social and legal problem.

It triggers fear, which can affect the quality of life and cause paranoia, anxiety, and other psychological issues on a personal level. Serious crimes such as murder, domestic abuse, hate crime, and sexual assault are among the most disturbing forms.  

In today’s world, advances in technologies such as AI and social media present further opportunities for potential offenders to commit crimes, leading to an unprecedented growth in crime rates. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, once wrote, “When reason fails, the devil helps!”. 

The influence of AI in criminal activity  

Simply put: as society develops, crime develops. Emerging technologies in AI play a significant role in the changes in our society, and criminals are using this new technology to facilitate and maximize their criminal activities. As a criminal tool, AI can be used for reprehensible purposes like intimation, humiliation, and harassment. But it can also be responsible for encouraging murderous acts.  

The case of Jaswant Singh Chail took the spotlight amid the latest generation of AI-powered chatbots. On December 25, 2021, Jaswant Singh Chail entered the grounds of Windsor Castle dressed as a Sith Lord, carrying a crossbow. When security approached him, Chail had one intention: to kill the Queen.

Jaswant Singh Chail planned his scheme with the use of the large language model (LLM) ChatGPT and a generative AI chatbot app called Replika—which is capable of holding emotional conversations and replicating intimacy between it and the user.  

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But this example is just the start. Criminals will use AI tools like ChatGPT for writing support, allowing inexperienced writers to craft effective marketing messages that lure in potential victims. Due to AI’s ability to produce written content and eliminate spelling errors, it will be increasingly challenging to spot whether emails are genuine or sent by criminals, including messages that ask computer users to reset passwords. 

AI chatbots also represent the next stage in extremist online content. According to a report by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, can be used in propaganda, interactive recruitment, automated attacks, social media exploitation, and cyber-attacks. Jonathan Hall KC, the UK’s new Independent Reviewer of State Threat Legislation, has warned that the government’s current internet safety legislation will find it “impossible” to deal with online terrorism content. 

Social media and its influence on crime 

Social media is another avenue for potential offenders to commit crimes. Offenses like online hate crimes, sextortion, cyberstalking, child exploitation, and identity theft are what are known as ‘hidden crimes’, due to victims’ reluctance to report them.  

According to Sky News, sextortion—a form of blackmail that involves threatening to publish sexual information, photos, or videos in exchange for money or to force victims to act against their will—was the most reported issue in 2021, with 1,124 cases. This compares to 593 in 2020, and 88% of the cases involve a male victim.  

In 2022, 17-year-old Jordan DeMay from Michigan Town committed suicide after an online chat turned into sextortion. Overall, at least 3,000 children and teenagers have been targeted, and more than a dozen have committed suicide. Cases like this illustrate the dangers of social media being used to commit crimes. 

Two sides of the same coin 

On the other side, law enforcement forces are using these new technologies to control crime. For example, AI tools are being used to track users’ chat history, identify behavioral patterns, and predict potential future crimes. 

So, while AI and social media bring new opportunities for criminals, when used correctly, law enforcement can use these tools to control crime and better serve the community.