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Making Sense of ‘Facebook Murder’? Social Networking Sites and Contemporary Homicide

Future Talks - the Future of Murder
Researchers: Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson (School of Social Sciences)

Background

Elizabeth Yardley, Director of the Centre of Applied Criminology and David Wilson, Professor of Criminology have researched into the role of social networking sites in homicide cases. Along with the rise of social media, there have been many cases where criminals have abused social networks to commit or show off their crimes. One example of this being the WDBJ7 live shooting which was broadcast on Facebook and Twitter.

The researchers have analysed the ways that perpetrators of homicide have incorporated Facebook to facilitate their crimes. They have carried this research out by using an electronic database, ‘Nexis’ to find cases linked to homicide/murder and Facebook. These cases were then recorded and analysed by noting the details of the victim, crime, relationship of the victim and perpetrator, motive and the way that Facebook was used.

Aims

The aims of this research were to:

  • Investigate into the nature of the homicide that is posted on Facebook
  • Analyse the demographics of the criminals to seek a pattern
  • Discover if a ‘Facebook Murder’ is different from a normal murder
  • Research the most common traits of the perpetrator and crime

Results

The search identified 48 cases, 54% of which occurred in the UK, 31.3% in the US, 8.3% in Australia and 2.1% in Canada, the Netherlands and Guatemala. It was also found that the perpetrator did not commit suicide in the majority of cases and that the most common locations was a home shared by the perpetrator and victim or the home of the victim.  The vast majority of perpetrators were males, with an average age of 28 the most homicides were committed in January and May. They also reached the verdict that stabbing and shooting were the most commonly used methods.

However the researchers state that ‘Facebook Murder’ shouldn’t be a definitive term as there was little difference between the cases that were investigated and cases that didn’t involve Facebook.