Are Violence in Online Platforms Fueling Real-World Crime?
Crime Social

Are Violence in Online Platforms Fueling Real-World Crime?


Imagine a small town where everyone knows each other. Life here is usually quiet and peaceful, with little crime to speak of. But one day, things take a dark turn when a series of incidents begin to unfold. Someone starts sharing violent and disturbing content on a popular online platform, targeting specific individuals in the town. People begin to notice a rise in tension and fear as online threats escalate.

Read More: Impact of Media Violence on Mental Health

Before long, the hostile online behaviour spills over into the real world, leading to confrontations, and even personal harm. This hypothetical situation is just one of many that highlight the troubling connection between violent content and behaviour on online platforms and real-world crime. While the internet has revolutionized communication and interaction, the unchecked spread of hate speech, threats, and violence online can easily spill over into tangible, physical confrontations, raising serious concerns about the impact of virtual worlds on the safety of real-world communities.

This situation poses a question that many communities around the world are grappling with: Can violence spread through online platforms fuel real crime?

What is violence?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2024), violence can be defined as an act of physical restraint that causes or intends to cause injury. The harm incurred by malice acts may be physical, mental, or emotional. Savagery may be distinguished from hostility, a more common sort of unfriendly conduct that will be physical, verbal, or inactive in nature. Violence is not limited to a certain age group; a violent person can be of any age.

Older adolescents and young adults are most likely to engage in violent behaviour. Violence is one of the most common human traits and is widely seen in all ethnic groups. Violence, whether it is physical, psychological, or emotional, leaves lasting scars on individuals and communities alike.

Read More: Victimology: Understanding the Psychological Impact of Crime

It can be classified based on several factors, such as the nature of the behaviour (murder, assault, robbery and domestic violence regardless of gender), the nature of the motivation (reactive or emotional violence and proactive or instrumental violence) as well as the discrimination between predatory violence and affective violence.
Any abuse or violation that takes place online or using communication technology is referred to as online violence.

Similar to offline violence, it can cause disastrous harm to the victims. Online violence, in most cases, eventually leads to physical or sexual assault. Any online platform—also referred to as a social media platform—can be used for it, including WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, and others. Cyberbullying, cyberstalking, cyber grooming, sexting, sharing inappropriate sexual comments or photographs, and other behaviours can all be considered forms of online violence. Although anyone can become a victim, women and children typically make up the bulk of those who do.

Read More: The Role of Cybersecurity in Mental Well-being

Cyberviolence not only has the capacity to escalate into physical and/or sexual violence, but it also has the ability to persuade individuals or groups within society to replicate similar acts. Regardless of the effects that popular culture or trends may have on our own lives, we are prone to following them. In a similar vein, stubborn people who are inclined toward antisocial behaviour are more likely to be persuaded by cyberviolence and replicate its actions. Violent mass media may have far more of an imitative effect than stories about violence found in books or told in person by strangers (Helfgott, 2015).

Prevalence of crimes

Online violence has become more common in India as a result of the country’s extensive exposure to digital technologies. Increased instances of cyberbullying, online harassment, and hate speech targeting people or groups based on religion, caste, gender, or other identities have been linked to rising internet usage, particularly on social media platforms (Kumar, 2021). About 20% of Indian internet users have reported being the victims of online harassment, per a government survey (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, 2021).

Read More: Cyberpsychology: The connection between human mind and technology

There is a demonstrable connection between aggressive and antisocial behaviour and violence on television or online. It is often known that people often mimic the behaviours or a number of crimes committed by well-known criminals. It’s not always necessary for it to be actual crimes; defiant people can also be drawn to violent computer games and violent content on the internet.

These media have a profound impact on people, particularly on those who have experienced abuse as children, parental neglect, or are from low-income backgrounds.

Types of crimes

It is true that cyber violence can inspire or affect offline criminal activity. Among them are, to name a few:

1. Online Radicalization

Extremist beliefs can be disseminated via the internet. Social media, online forums, and other platforms have the potential to radicalize people and inspire them to carry out violent crimes in the real world. The New Zealand mosque shootings in Christchurch are a prominent illustration of how radicalization from the internet may result in violent acts in the real world. A shooter opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, killing 51 people and wounding numerous others. The attacker, Brenton Tarrant, was greatly impacted by far-right extremist and white supremacist beliefs that he encountered and interacted with online.

Before the incident, he declared his intentions and shared his opinions on social media and online forums. In addition to posting a manifesto online outlining his extreme ideas and motivations for carrying out the violent crime, he even live-streamed the attack on Facebook.

Read More: How Social Media Affects Our Attention Span

This tragedy serves as a reminder of the perils of radicalization online and the ways that exposure to extreme content can inspire people to carry out horrific acts of violence offline. In order to stop hate speech and extreme beliefs from spreading online, it also emphasizes how crucial it is to keep an eye on and respond to these sites.

2. Extortion and catfishing

Some online criminals employ catfishing to entice victims into relationships, after which they blackmail them for money by requesting private information or pictures of them in intimate poses. If the victim tries to confront the offender face-to-face, this could result in physical altercations.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Copy Cat Crimes

3. Murder attempts or murder

There have been cases where people have been inspired to kill by television shows, films, or books. The “Drishyam model” murder in Kerala, India, is one famous instance. A man is accused of trying to hide his wife’s death in 2018 by drawing inspiration from the well-known Indian movie “Drishyam,” which features a character who uses devious misdirection to try and hide a crime. In an effort to evade discovery, the man tried to fabricate an alibi and alter the evidence. But in the end, his scheme failed, and he was taken into custody. This example demonstrates how people might commit crimes in the real world by imitating the tactics they read about in fiction.

Read More: Crime and Mental Health: Understanding the Complex Relationship

Theoretical aspects

1. Desensitization

It is among the persistent consequences of violent content. Emotional desensitization is the term used to describe how prolonged exposure to violent content can lead to an increase in violent conduct. The infant gets “desensitized” to this negative emotional reaction after being exposed to it repeatedly (Huesmann, 2007). They are unable to comprehend the mental states of others as a result. This has a direct effect on their capacity for effective communication and community building. High exposure to violence, whether in real life or in a film, desensitizes a person to other people’s reactions.

2. Priming

One popular idea for explaining the connections between words and concepts stored in memory is priming. The process involves the spreading of activity from a brain node representing an external observable stimulus to another brain node indicating a cognition, emotion, or behaviour within the neural network of the brain (Huesmann, 2007). Should a player already possess aggressive reactions or have an aggressive schema, playing violent video games can increase their likelihood of being aggressive.

3. Social learning

People who are frequently exposed to high levels of violence, whether in real life or on social media, are more likely to act violently and may even learn how to act aggressively because they may start to believe that such behaviour is appropriate and normal. If the person comes from a background where violence is accepted or normalized in society, it may be interpreted as a justifiable or efficient means of achieving objectives.


A key component of upholding polite and safe digital environments is preventing violence on digital media. The following are some tactics and actions that users and platforms can take:

For Platforms
  1. Working together with law enforcement to enforce legislation and address systemic issues
  2. Clear community norms that forbid violent behaviour and content should be established on platforms.
  3. Education and awareness: concerning the significance of polite online conduct and the effects of cyber violence.
  4. Content moderation: Using efficient teams and tools to quickly take down violent content and deal with abusive conduct.
  5. Use user reporting options to report violent behaviour or content, and respond to reports of such behaviour as soon as possible.
For Users
  1. Encourage the growth of constructive discourse and violent discourse in good online groups.
  2. Encourage the development of digital literacy skills such as fact-checking, critical thinking, and the ability to spot false or dangerous content online.
  3. Promote polite behaviour online by teaching people to be aware of the consequences of their words and deeds, to be empathetic, and to respect the opinions of others.
  4. Encourage people who could be at risk of negative effects from online interactions or who are in distress as a result of those interactions to seek out mental health options.
References +
  • Helfgott, J. B. (2015). Criminal behavior and the copycat effect: Literature review and theoretical framework for empirical investigation. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 22, 46–64.Doi:10.1016/j.avb.2015.02.002
  • Huesmann, L. R. (2007). The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), S6–S13. Doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.09.005
  • Jacquin, K. M. (2024, March 23). Violence. Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Kumar, S. (2021). Online Violence and Hate Speech in India. Journal of Cybersecurity, 12(4),345-359.
  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. (2021). Digital India: Online Harassment Report. Government of India.

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