POLICE figures show complaints of incidents involving social media such as Facebook and Twitter in Gwent have increased by 2,900 per cent in just four years.
In Gwent in 2008 there were just two reported incidents involving social media, but in 2012 there were 60, two of which were identified as crimes and one resulting in a person being charged.
Across the UK this year a total of 4,908 alleged offences were reported and 653 people faced criminal charges over the allegations, according to the statistics released by 29 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales.
Gwent Police Detective Superintendent Pete Jones said: “Online incidents are no less serious than ‘real life’ incidents as a victim can feel the same sense of harassment, alarm or distress as they would if approached in the street.
“I would urge people who use social media sites to think carefully about what they are posting.
“Malicious communications is wide ranging but as a rough guide I would say don’t post anything that you wouldn’t say face to face or be happy talking about in public.
“People are mistaken if they think that they can remain anonymous: Gwent Police use a wide range of resources to identify offenders.”
Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on communications, said: “It is a newworld for all and we could end up in a situation where each constabulary needs a dedicated Twitter squad. In my opinion, that would not be a good use of resources in difficult financial times.
“We need to accept that people have the right to communicate, even to communicate in an obnoxious or disagreeable way, and there is no desire on the part of the police to get involved in that judgment.
“But equally, there are many offences involving social media such as harassment or genuine threats of violence which cause real harm. It is that higher end of offending which forces need to concentrate on.”