Strategies for developing research into digital crime

The field of crime and public policy is at a critical turning point. There are new threats such as the rise and commodification of disinformation in the public square, the emergence of distributed criminal infrastructures and organisations that drive cybercrime, and new technologies and platforms that facilitate criminal activity. New modes of surveillance and policing have emerged such as the focus on smart policing tools. The challenge is to address crime as a globally connected, locally encountered phenomenon and recognise the political, pragmatic, and ethical challenges it brings.  There are new opportunities for research in the form of open access data sources, and the design of agile, hybrid research methods that combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Dangers are getting swamped by big data, deferring to platform governance and becoming wholly reactive.

There are interlocking challenges: to identify and tackle emerging challenges in crime and crime governance: the rise of crime as a service,  the commodification of cybercrime technologies, the use of cryptocurrencies and other cashing out services, the intersection of gig economy labour organisation and illicit labour supply, emerging challenges in counterfeit pharmaceuticals, the use of encrypted apps for communication between criminal actors, analysis of harm and community support, and the redistribution of harm to the Global South.

Some priorities that will be guiding me, should I ever get round to them:

  1. To extend existing cross disciplinary working on global illicit markets and organised crime challenges stemming from changes in the global economy and the digital society.
  2. To trace new developments in platform abuse and take advantage of opportunities to support vulnerable communities within established and emerging digital platforms
  3. Adapt theoretical innovations in the areas of new materialism and digital trace analysis to the subject of crime and public policy
  4. Challenge the prevailing public and policy view that cybercrime happens ‘out there’ in non-Western territories rather than being a domestic phenomenon, and understanding its impact on global development
  5. Identify emerging challenges in studying digital crime and hybrid on/offline crime networks and develop measures for assessing the resilience of illicit market ecosystems
  6. Contribute to the development of public AI tools focused on communities and crime, particularly those that can be used to support illicit drug harm reduction and support user voices
  7. Develop theories and practices of resilience and security that aren’t deficit based
  8. Promote open scientific practices in the research community through code and data sharing practices.
  9. Enhance research impact through promoting the creation of policy communities around specific topics such as disinformation, the emergence of new psychoactive substances and exchange crime

This is my sense of what would be useful priorities for the user community, coming to it as a bit of a noob. There are going to be plenty of others for sure. What I haven’t done yet is fully survey the fantastic work being done in these areas across the board.

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