In this blog, our Fivecast Tradecraft Advisor draws on their extensive background in law enforcement intelligence and network analysis to identify patterns within complex, online networks to uncover youth crime.
Youth Crime Online
Youth crime is a global challenge for law enforcement, exacerbated by impressionable teenagers having easy access to online platforms that increasingly feature content promoting and encouraging illegal activity. A disturbing online trend has reportedly emerged in Australia involving young people posting videos of themselves stealing cars, engaging in dangerous driving, and goading police into high-speed pursuits- with the behavior often escalating to attempts to ram law enforcement vehicles. These videos are one in a series of online challenges permeating social media.
Alleged crimes posted on social media are still circulating a year later. ABC News, Dec 2022. Hannah Barry.
Far from an isolated incident, these videos form part of a growing online subculture involving young people across the world committing crimes or risking their lives with high-speed stunts or races and using social media video clips to show off to their friends and achieve internet notoriety.
The short clips are often set to music and feature youths driving recklessly in stolen cars with little regard for the consequences. They typically hide their faces with masks, clothing or obscure their image through digital means. Grandstanding with the proceeds of crime, including stolen vehicles, cash and car keys is commonplace.
For victims of crime, the use of social media to brag about their crime adds insult to injury. While platforms try to remove flagged accounts, videos are quickly replaced by tech-savvy offenders keen to maintain their online profiles.
Crime Promoting Accounts – No Face, No Case
Crime Promoting Accounts (CPAs) are one prominent example of this concerning online behavior. This is a social media account promoting a group of anonymous individuals for their, often dangerous, criminal behaviour. A popular CPA mantra is “No Face, No Case” inferring that police can’t charge criminals they cannot identify. Hence why they hide their faces and blur or photoshop identifiers out. However, these individuals are still providing unwitting clues to an investigator skilled and equipped to analyse copious amounts of social media information.
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CPAs are thematically named around crime, or gang culture. The profile picture may be two or more young people, faces obscured, flashing stolen property. Some CPAs have large followings, but others are more modest, likely meant to appeal to friends and a niche online community.
A single CPA may be run by a group of people. Also, a group may operate multiple CPAs across different platforms. This creates a confusing web of shared imagery, fake names and claimed activity across different platforms and online entities.
Content is King, But Not the Absolute Truth
Adding further complexity is video theft and exaggeration (editing unrelated videos into a single activity). The trend’s popularity means fakers are prevalent. CPAs are made by offenders, but also pretenders. People with no real link to the crimes who attempt to take credit by posting other videos as their own. These shadow CPAs can be highly convincing. Online investigators could waste considerable time and resources on accounts promoting criminal activity they are not actually linked to.
Reveal Networks and individuals with Open-Source Intelligence
Starting with the entities of interest, Fivecast ONYX quickly and accurately gathers large amounts of publicly available information on social media. By using targeted data collection combined with AI-enabled risk analysis, Fivecast ONYX automates complex intelligence tasks to help analysts sift through vast amounts of data, quickly identifying relevant information.
By using Fivecast ONYX, an investigator can quickly understand not just a CPA, but the network it’s part of. This is critical for identifying credible versus shadow accounts, as well as leads on the individuals behind them. An investigator, supported by Fivecast ONYX social media collection and analytics, may still build a case. With, or without a face.
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