There are no more filters on the internet

Detective Sergeant Maya Alieh is looking for a concrete example to show that people no longer have a filter on the internet. At the end of the line, he finally finds one: people showing off guns on social media.

In 2018, the supervisor of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) cyber investigations team says that his team handled three types of files…

“But in 2022, it is a file of 190 people who display firearms on social networks. »

Whether it’s weapons, threats, stalking or other acts that demonstrate digital as a tool for crime, the 12-year veteran of cybercrime is still amazed at the impunity people think they have for using a keyboard.

“It’s not that people stop hiding, they think they’re hiding behind a screen, with an avatar,” says Maya Alieh.

That is, there is a trivialization, we no longer draw a line between freedom of expression and crime.

Maya Alieh, Detective Sgt

Detective Sergeant notes that this trivialization of criminal words and gestures is a result of the generalization of the use of social networks. For example, children are using tablets at younger and younger ages. We are all increasingly exposed to extreme words and gestures, Maya Alieh observes, and this leads to a form of desensitization.


— Sharing violent words or gestures for a “Like” is more interesting than reporting it to an adult or calling 911! »

Today, Detective Sergeant Alieh is invited to Montreal City Hall, where he will explain what his team of nine investigators and two civilians do to elected officials from the Public Safety Commission. The SPVM cyber investigation team does not initiate any investigations, but it assists all SPVM investigators who need to break through digital walls.

Posting suicide messages on Facebook, sexually attracting children on TikTok, death threats on Twitter, beatings on Instagram, photos of young people displaying weapons on YouTube: this is Maya Alieh’s team, wanted by Montreal police investigators.

“Are the suspects mostly young people?”

– No. There is no typical profile. It affects all generations. It’s amazing how different the groups of people in our files are. In general, there is a real banalization: because everyone is on social networks, there is no filter anymore. »

Cyber ​​research group has been operating since 2017. This trivialization of dangerous words and gestures on the Internet, noted by Maya Alieh, is reflected in the number of investigations and the staff of her team: 1588 investigations in 2022 (an increase of about 20%) and 12 investigators in January 2023 (from 5 a year ago).

I ask Maya Alieh about the success rate of SPVM investigators in finding people when they send out requests to members of her team. Praising his team’s investigative methods and the collaboration of digital platforms, he beats around the bush a bit and refrains from giving an exact percentage. I interrupted him:

“More than 60%?

“Yes, more than 60%,” he replies.

Speaking to the public, the head of cyber investigators of SPVM wants to send two messages.

First, empowerment: “We need to empower our youth and empower ourselves as adults. We are responsible for what we say or do online. There are consequences. And the more time passes, the more zero tolerance it is. »

Second, the importance of reporting to the police: “We can’t see everything 24 hours a day. We need the public to report words and gestures that cross the line. »

Visually, as an internet user, I must say that I have personally observed these outdated restrictions mentioned by police officer Maya Alieh for years. Every day I read or see things on Quebec social media that clearly fall under the Criminal Code. There is a kind of freedom of speech that amazes and disturbs him.

Maya Alieh, under the pseudonym, warns: “Words have consequences. If you commit a crime with words, you will be tracked down and charged. What’s surprising is that when we stop them, they don’t think that their words can have consequences. Many things are said about a person, a group of people, without considering the consequences. Here’s what surprised me the most: it’s a free-for-all. »

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