Recording: Gender, Social Media and Organised Crime

This webinar investigates how social media is being used by organised crime groups, the gender dynamics at play and the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls.

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Social media has become an important tool in the arsenal of organised crime groups. Not only are these groups increasingly reliant on social media for illicit trades, but they also use such platforms as a means of identifying and recruiting people into criminal activity. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the exploitation of young persons via social media, with criminal actors using apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook to target people to act as money ‘mules’ or to recruit them into ‘county lines’. Such recruitment has been shown to be fast, if not instantaneous. There has been limited research into the gendered dynamics of such recruitment. Yet gender is likely to play a role in how people are targeted, recruited and exploited, as well as having an impact on how they are treated by the criminal justice system.

The limited research in this area means there is a woeful lack of information for parents and guardians on how to protect children and young people from online recruitment.

This event is part of a five-part series of webinars exploring organised crime and gender, organised by RUSI in collaboration with the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit and the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies at the University of Bath.


Kathryn Lockett is an independent Senior Consultant with over 25 years’ experience of working in development, fragile and conflict settings; and in the UK. Kathryn is an expert on promoting Gender, Peace and Security; tackling Gender-Based Violence (GBV); and identifying and responding to transnational threats, including Violent Extremism; Serious and Organised Crime (SOC); and cyber threats.

Richard Kjellgren is a final-year PhD researcher at the University of Stirling and affiliated with the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and the Scottish Institute of Policing Research. His PhD research is focused on exploitation within sex markets, the role of technologies in this context and, furthermore, the extent to which we can use open-source intelligence to understand and police online spaces. Richard has a methodological background in social statistics, social network analysis and computational social science, and he has been involved in a variety of justice-related research with his PhD.

Rhiannon Sawyer is the Director of Children’s Services in England for Action for Children. This role oversees a large national portfolio including children’s homes, organised crime prevention, young homeless projects, family hubs, children’s centres and therapeutic edge of care services. Rhiannon was previously the Assistant Director at the London Violence Reduction Unit and the Head of the National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme.

The discussion is moderated by Genevieve Kotarska, Research Analyst, Organised Crime and Policing at RUSI.

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Genevieve Kotarska

Associate Fellow | SHOC Network Member - Researcher

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