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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cyber-Conspiracy and International Cyber-Cops

Cyber-conspiracy to commit murder: As chat rooms continue to grow in popularity among teens, chat room providers find themselves grappling with complex criminal law issues. 

From Edmonton Journal: "Teenagers involved in gang-style activity are bringing their feuds into cyberspace, a new trend that has Edmonton [Canada] police monitoring gang wars online as well as on the streets...Four Edmonton teens were charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a case in which tensions spiked in online chat rooms. "The comments they post on the websites may just be trash talk, but what it does is add fuel to the fire and it just escalates," [said Donna Cole of the Edmonton police department gang unit]...The arrests are the latest to result from Project Feud, a crackdown by the gang unit initiated in June. Detectives to date have charged 20 people with gang activity, primarily in southeast Edmonton..."We are seeing a lot of people displaying weapons online," Cole said. "We see hand guns and we have even seen automatic weapons."

Nexopia founder Timo Ewalds said online communities are the same as any community: most people are good, there are a few troublemakers and plenty of Nexopia's 500,000 mostly teenage members don't get along. "Sometimes they threaten each other, but usually they are empty threats," Ewalds said Wednesday. "If it appears to us that it is a real threat, we call the police." The vast majority of Nexopia's members are under 18 and most have grown up using the Internet the way older generations used the telephone.

"These things always happened in real life, but now it is documented online," Ewalds said. "If they intend to do harm and they express it online, deleting the account isn't going to change anything. University of Alberta criminal law professor Sanjeev Anand said the online conversation could be enough to convict the teens. "If they agree to commit the crime, then that's enough. That agreement is the criminal act," he said Wednesday. But the Crown prosecutor must also show the youths intended to actually carry out the crime. "The question is: Were they serious about it? Were they kidding? It is difficult to tell when you're online," Anand said. "It depends on how compelling the online conversation is."

The Need for International Cyber-cops: Many of today's cyber crimes (ranging from spam to cyber-stalking and identity theft) originate in India. So "cyber-cops" in Kolkata, India are calling for international collaboration and treaties to track down and prosecute cyber-criminals.

From The Statesman: "Officers from the recently formed [cyber-crime] unit, part of the detective department, say their efforts to solve local cyber crimes are being thwarted by lack of response from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) outside India...Kolkata’s cyber cops, all new to the job of tracking criminals, say inter-country treaties or collaboration are necessary so that ISPs or domain providers outside India can be formally approached to trace experienced cyber criminals. Officers say in most cases, the culprits use ISPs or domain providers registered in the USA or Europe. As a result, the cops have to approach those service-providers to gather necessary information for tracking the culprit. Mr R Subarno, DC (special branch), said: “This kind of initiative is beyond our jurisdiction. But the way cyber crime is increasing, the necessity of such treaties will be realised by the Central government and it will take necessary action.” [Mark Godsey]

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