This study examined the role of social media consumption in the promotion of cybercrime among undergraduates in Nigeria.
The survey research method was used for the study.
The results revealed that; high exposure to social media consumption exposes victims or users to criminal content; fake creation of social media profile, unlimited access and lack of restriction to social media use are identified as factors that could have severe harm of cybercrime on victims; Facebook, Instagram, anonymity and perceived ease of use have perceived harm severity of cybercrime to victims. Lastly, both male and female genders have been victims of cybercrime activities on social media.
The study concludes that government and relevant authorities must regulate the use of social media and to ensure that the issue of anonymous is addressed in order to identify the identities of users and cybercriminals, and to monitor various users activities across social media platforms. The study further recommended that; social media use should be restricted and regulated in order to monitor the use of social media and curtail the menace of cybercrime in the Nigerian society; social media platforms should address the issue of anonymous in order to ensure that the identities of users are registered and perpetuators of cybercrimes are apprehended; various should media platforms should be regulated in order to track perpetuators of cybercrimes and to provide an environment that is free of online crimes; the right of both genders should be protected against cybercrime and that no gender should be given partial treatment when apprehended.
1.1. Background of the study
Technology has been the success story of our century and has opened doors for beneficial inventions. Technology has countries interconnected and the world has now become a global village (Ojo 2019). he information of most people and the economy of most countries in the world have become easily accessible with the help of electronic devices through the Internet and social media engagements and it is available to anyone who inquires, including criminals and eavesdroppers (Vladimir 2005).
Social media is a computer technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas thoughts, information idea interests and other forms of expressions via virtual communities, networks and platforms. Social media connotes a web-based consumer friendly software platform interactively and responsively even to build or distribute content on some of the social media platforms that include: blogs like type pad, WordPress, image and video sharing applications such as Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, microblogs such as twitter and Tumblr, social sites such as Facebook, Myspace, WhatsApp, LinkedIn etc. Social media's strength lies in its ability to create highly productive channels to connect and interact with people freely anywhere, wherever, in real-time and worldwide (Rana, 2017).
According to (Simona, 2020) As of January 2020, Nigeria registered approximately 27 million active social media users, WhatsApp was the most popular platform used in the country. Nonetheless, the number of registered internet users in Nigeria decreased in more than 10 million from 2019 to 2020, the platform was mentioned by 94% of Internet users aged 16-64 years. Facebook and YouTube followed, being used respectively by 87% & 76% of the individuals with access to the Internet (Statista 2020). Just as social media has brought for several benefits in aspects of business, interaction, entertainment etc., it has equally posed social and security risks the impact the society, national and international security negatively. Frequently, personal information is shared when creating profiles on social media platforms thereby making it easy for online crimes to take place. Threat attacks including hacking, stealing of names, phishing Scams, viruses are now common online because users share names, date of birth, school names, Family information and other information on websites of social media (Ayodele 2013). As the activities online rise, there are worries about the ways the personal information shared by the users may be collected and analyzed (Hinduja and Patchin 2009).
All of these threats see to the introduction of the general action which is Cybercrime, and Cybercrime is generally known as the extortion or blackmail of organizations and individuals on social media or Internet websites or the forceful hacking of their personal emails to obtain personal information for fraudulent acts. Cybercrime, also called computer crime is the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy. Cybercrime, especially through the Internet, has grown in importance as the computer has become central to commerce, entertainment, and government. (Dennis, 2014). Cybercrime includes a wide series of criminal activities including: Phishing email messages, Unconstitutional access or unauthorized access to a person’s personal information, theft of financial or card payment data, theft and sale of corporate data, Cyber extortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack), ransomware attacks (a type of cyber extortion), identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and use). Cybercriminals aim to use a computing device to access personal data of a user, confidential business information or government information for illegal means (Tariq 2019).
Cybercrimes in Nigeria are of different categories ranging from; hacking, cyber-stalking, Internet frauds, online scams, ATM or credit card fraud, software piracy, phishing, virus dissemination, cyber-defamation. In Nigeria, cybercriminals are referred as "yahoo boys". They usually take advantage of the open e-commerce and social media scheme to defraud unsuspecting people on sites (who are mainly foreigners or immigrants) of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars (Ehimen, 2009).
All of these popular cybercrimes in Nigeria make use of the social media scheme to defraud people and this is because of the anonymity of the users on social media. Social media platforms are the success story of our century but also has the downside to it, social media is like honey to a bee where cybercrime comes in play, this alone should let one know that cybercrime is promoted through high social media usage, especially as long as the numbers users are visible. To give an idea of the numbers of users that consume these social media platforms, here are some:
- Facebook – 2.45 billion monthly active users (Q3, 2019)
- Twitter – 300 million monthly active users (Statista, 2019)
- Instagram – 1 billion monthly active users (about. Instagram, 2021)
Popular usage and consumption of these social media platforms is a problem because it gives fraudsters an access to millions and more active user profiles that may not know if they are real or fake, this simply proves that social media is like honey to a bee where cybercrime is concerned, fraudsters see social media users as a captive and trusting audience, that they could manipulate and lure into performing the acts that they would normally be vigilant about. Social media has sufficiently built a platform, not just for sharing thoughts and funny pictures, but as a playground for cybercrime.
The history of cybercrime which is believed to have started in the late 1980s by Robert Tappan Morris Jajoo, A. (2017). Cybercrime can be traced back to the introduction of three major inventions; the mobile telephones, the Internet and the computers. These three jointly brought forth an outbreak of cybercrimes, and today the current political, social and economic state of Nigeria has worsened the situation and left a bitter taste in the mouth of victims. The high rate of unemployment, horrible educational system and the harsh economy in the country all contribute highly to the proliferation of cybercrime practices in Nigeria.
The Nigerian government has set up a number of bodies and commissions to tackle this crime and reduce its prevalence in Nigeria. The ICPC came up with The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000. The act seeks to prohibit and prescribe punishment for corrupt practices and other related offences. The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 also set up a working group known as the Nigeria Cyber Crime Working Group (NCWG) to address this phenomenon since the loss suffered by both consumers and investors creates serious credibility and image problem to the country. Similarly, according to (Abdulhamidet al, 2011), in Nigeria, a bill title “Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure bill” was prepared to deal specifically with the menace of social media fraud. The economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) also investigates financial crimes such as advance fee fraud, popularly known as (419 fraud) and laundering. Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (ISSPIN) have also assisted to curb the maladies (Awe, 2009). Even with these measures from these several agencies, cybercrime and social media fraud in Nigeria is still on the increase.
Based on the above background, this study will investigate the role social media usage and consumption plays in the role of promoting cybercrime practice in Nigeria.
1.2. Statement of the problem
The issue of undergraduate participation in cybercrime in Nigeria has continued to remain a very intractable problem, and social media has become an environment where the most lucrative and safest crimes thrive. Different evidence to show cybercrime is rising have been discovered. A (YouGov, 2017) survey for the Internet users in the UK shows that 1 in 20 users lost money to online scams. According to (DeMarco, 2012), He also noted that cyberspace make young people susceptible to risk of engaging in cybercriminal activity by providing open, uncensored and unregulated sites that provide information, directives and tools about hacking, network intrusion, and phishing procedures.
These studies are all vivid indicators to the fact that social media fraud is increasing rapidly and as so, it is starting to gain awareness at the global level but there is a shortfall to the study of this burgeoning criminal problem in Nigeria. Nigeria being a third world country is faced with huge economic challenges and this causes for a high rate of unemployment, therefore being a reason why this crime thrives in the country. Asides from the economy factor being a possible reason why social media fraud thrives in Nigeria, there are many other factors causing the unceasing rise in this fraudulent activity. A study by (zero tolerance, 2014), shows that the age group of social media fraudsters are usually within ages 18-30 years, and they are involved in this crime usually to sustain themselves and have a taste of “the good life”. The age group in this study is classified to be that of the students found in tertiary institutions being part of the reasons why this study is centralizing on university undergraduates.
Social media usage and high consumption rate also poses as a problem such as the high amount of users gives these fraudsters the massive and trusting audience that they could manipulate, reason may be the victim trusts the social media app and believes the person he/she is speaking to has good intentions towards them. If the usage of social media is cut down by these users this problem is most likely to reduce. And the social media platforms that these victims entrust so much should ensure and establish ways of letting only authentic people onto their platform so if there may be any harm, the users may be discoverable.
Anonymous and unlimited access to social media accounts also creates a big problem and plays a big role in the participation in cybercrime, the ease of creation of unauthenticated social media accounts poses as one of the problems allowing for the complexity in the identification of these fraudsters. Following these findings there is need for the discovery of more characteristics and qualities of these fraudsters and what other factors may drive them into the commitment of the crimes.
1.3.Research objectives of the study
The primary objective of this study is to investigate the role social media usage and consumption plays in promoting cybercrime. Previous research in this area results have been inconclusive on if social media does impact its users’ perception of cybercrime and if so what that impact is. Therefore other objectives of this study will be:
1) To ascertain the extent to which ones social media consumption naturally exposes them to criminal content.
2) To investigate the effect of unlimited access to social media in creating an avenue for criminals to exploit users.
3) To determine the impact which social media has on perceived harm severity of Cybercrime to victims in users.
4) To investigate the gender specific impact that social media use has on perceived seriousness of cybercrime and if the use of one social media site has more of an impact on a certain gender more than the other.
From the above research objectives listed, the following research questions will be poised.
- To what extent does social media consumption expose its users to cybercrime attacks?
- What effect does unlimited access to social media have in creating an avenue for criminals to exploit users?
- How does social media use have an impact on its users and if it does what is the nature of that effect?
- How does social media use have an impact on perceived wrongfulness of cybercrime?
- How do social media have an impact on perceived harm severity of cybercrime to victims in users?
- What gender has specifically been affected by cybercrime due to social media use.
1.5.Significance of the study
This study will increase the wealth of knowledge on cybercrime activity in Nigeria, specifically would create new knowledge on the relationship between social media and cybercrime thereby filling the gap in the literature. In addition the study would also be highly beneficial as it would enlighten undergraduate students and the general public on the negative results from participating in this crime, and the results from the research would give a general answer to social media users on their different perspectives about social media and its influence on people. The study will also inform them on the appropriate authorities to file complaints to if they have been victims of any sort of cyber fraud or scam.
1.6.Scope of study
The scope of this study is a quantitative design to find out in-depth information about cybercrime and the more classified factors pushing the study class into participation. This study is focused on university undergraduates who constantly are in use of these social media platforms where cybercrime is highly practiced on. This study will collect data using a questionnaire.
The reason for picking university undergraduates as the scope for this study is because several statistical data have shown the most common age range for participation in this crime to be from ages 18-30 and a majority of these set of people are found in tertiary institutions.
1.7.Operational definition of terms
Cybercrime: as used in this study is the offence committed with the use of these social media sites or applications. It is seen to be blackmail through different formats discussed in this study.
Social media: as used through this study is the platform or are the sites which these cybercrime acts are committed with or on. It is a socialization network used to send and receive messages, share videos, and carry out other forms of communication processes.
Phishing: is a type of cybercrime format detailed in this study which uses emails to lure its victims.
Consumption: as a term in this study is a description used for usage or frequent use of certain social media applications that could even be an addiction to that certain site.