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Can interactions on Facebook lead to a murder?

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Posted November 19, 2014

Media coined a new term Facebook Murder because world’s most popular social networking site was involved into several killings. But can interactions on Facebook really lead to a homicide? Were these broadly discussed cases special? Does this and similar websites created a new type of crime?

Picture: Psycho. Image credit: Filippo Diotalevi via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Picture: Psycho. Image credit: Filippo Diotalevi via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

These questions motivated British criminologists Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson to analyze so called Facebook Murders in a scientific way. Results of their study suggest that media was wrong after all. “Our findings have begun to address this dearth and caution against the use of deterministic media constructs like Facebook Murder,” Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson claim.

Scientists working at Birmingham City University investigated, what are characteristics of murderous crimes, in which Facebook was involved in one or other way. In order to find out whether these crimes are special and can be classified into new category, they compared their findings with general characteristics of homicides. Their major conclusion is that most of the reported acts of killing can be classified according to the old standards. Therefore, new categories preached by the media are not needed.

Nevertheless some differences exist after all. Majority of homicides are committed by men who are between 20 and 35 years old. “However, the age of victims and perpetrators across all 48 cases was relatively low, with averages of 20.7 years and 28.2 years, respectively, so the cases of homicide involving Facebook that we discovered would appear to disproportionately affect younger people, for whom Social Network Sites are an established feature of social life,” the researchers report.

In addition, males are usually not only the main perpetrators, but also are overrepresented as victims as well. However, this is not the case with murders, in which Facebook was involved. A proportion of killed females is considerably larger than in traditional cases. In addition, socioeconomic differences are not so pronounced as well.

Homicides are usually committed by people having low socio-economic status. But this is not the case with analyzed cases. The cases we identified were not collectively unique or unusual when compared with general trends and characteristics – certainly not to a degree that would necessitate the introduction of a new category of homicide or justify a broad label like Facebook Murder,” the researchers conclude.

Article: Yardley, E. and Wilson, D., 2014, Making Sense of ‘Facebook Murder’? Social Networking Sites and Contemporary Homicide. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice. doi: 10.1111/hojo.12109, source link.

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