From Stalking to Fake News: Forensic Authorship Analysis in Cybercriminal Cases

The technological – and especially the cybernetic – developments of the last decades have enabled new criminal practices online. While these cybercriminal activities replicate ‘real-life’ criminal activities (e.g. bullying, stalking, harassment and defamation), the fact that they take place online raises new challenges, the main one being the positive identification of the perpetrators. The nature of online resources offers anonymity possibilities that can hardly be granted in the real world, as is the use of technology-enabled products (e.g. stealth technologies and IP address hide software), or the free, unrestricted use of public access computers (e.g. those found in public libraries and cybercafes). Additionally, cybercrime is boosted by the perceived anonymity of Internet users; in order to engage in cybercriminal acts, users do not necessarily need to be anonymous, it suffices that they perceive themselves as being anonymous (e.g. by creating fake profiles). As a significant proportion of online crimes uses language, forensic authorship analysis is crucial in cybercriminal investigations. This session presents three cases of cybercrime that were reported to the Cybercrime Office of the Portuguese Prosecutor’s General Office between 2015 and 2018: one case of intellectual property infringement, one case of defamation and one case of cyberstalking. The linguistic analysis conducted revealed promising results, which demonstrate the potential of forensic authorship analysis, both to the investigative and the evidential contexts. The potential and limitations of the authorship analysis in these cases will be discussed. The session ends with a brief description of the role of forensic linguistics in fake news detection.

CFL Symposium, Aston University
31.05.2019
Programme available here.

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