The 6 ways Facebook is used in murders

However, the researchers stressed that "Facebook is no more to blame for these homicides than a knife is to blame for a stabbing"

James Vincent
Tuesday 04 November 2014 11:23 GMT

In the first study of its kind, criminologists at Birmingham City University have identified the most common ways that Facebook influences murder cases around the world.

The research, published in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, looked at 48 separate cases of “Facebook murder” from 2008 to 2013, categorising six “types of killer”: reactor, informer, antagonist, fantasist, predator and imposter.

The ‘reactor’ was the most common, making up 27 per cent of all murder case involving Facebook, with the perpetrator finding a piece of news of information on the site and reacting to it.

The ‘informer’ was the second most frequent, with 22.9 per cent of the cases, and describes a scenario where a murderer uses the social network to announce their plans or actions.

In this scenario the criminologist cited the case of Merrick McKoy, a Colorado man who kidnapped his two-year-old daughter from his ex-partner and shot the girl and then himself after posting the message: "I told u I can’t live without u lol u thought I was joking now me n Mia out this bitch."

The ‘antagonist’ accounted for 16.7 per cent of cases and described incidents where hostile exchanges online led to face to face fatal violence.

The ‘fantasist’ included murders where the perpetrator was using the social network to “perform or indulge in a fantasy”; the ‘predator’ use the social network to lure victims with a fake profile and the ‘imposter’ uses the online identity of someone perhaps known to the victim to gain information about them.

Lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Yardley said her team examined more 1,000 reports of “Facebook murder” from around the world, including the case of British man Wayne Forrester who killed his wife after reading Facebook posts in which she claimed that she wanted to meet other men.

The study highlights some general trends in the case, including the low age profile of both victim and perpetrator, a higher incidence of murder-suicides and the over-representation of women as victims, but the researchers cautioned against using the term “Facebook murder”.

“Social networking sites like Facebook have become part and parcel of our everyday lives and it’s important to stress that there is nothing inherently bad about them,” said Dr Yardley.

“Facebook is no more to blame for these homicides than a knife is to blame for a stabbing – it’s the intentions of the people using these tools that we need to focus upon.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in