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Facebook killers come in six types: researchers

UK-based study finds patterns in social media encounters that turn violent

Researchers said the data did not suggest a causal link between Facebook itself and the crimes being studied.
Researchers said the data did not suggest a causal link between Facebook itself and the crimes being studied.

Six distinct types of killer are directly influenced by Facebook in selecting their victims and committing their crimes, UK researchers have found.

According to a report from The Guardian, a Birmingham City University study has grouped killers from 48 cases worldwide into six categories: reactor, informer, antagonist, fantasist, predator and imposter.

Dr Elizabeth Yardley and Prof David Wilson, from the university's centre of applied criminology, led the study, thought to be the first formal investigation of the influence of social media sites on criminal behaviour.

A reactor is a user who responds violently to information seen online, such as in the case of truck driver Wayne Forrester, who killed his wife Emma in 2008 after reading her Facebook posts, which claimed the couple had separated and that she seeking a new relationship.

An informer uses Facebook to announce their violent act, either before or after it is committed. An example of an informer is LaShanda Armstrong, who, after an argument with her partner, drove into the Hudson River in New York, killing herself and her three children. Before the incident, Armstrong posted on her Facebook page: "I'm sorry everyone forgive me please for what I'm gonna do ... This is it!!!"

An antagonist instigates social media confrontations that can then escalate into real-world, physical attacks.

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Fantasists concoct fake personas and motives for themselves and the people they communicate with, for the purposes of living out a false reality. They may resort to killing as an attempt to preserve their illusion.

A predator deliberately falsifies their profile to lure a victim to a real-world meeting.

Imposters pose as an existing person from the real world who may or may not already have a profile. The person they pose as is sometimes the victim, in order to fool others into thinking they are still alive.

Yardley stressed that Facebook murders did not differ much in nature from those without a social media dimension, but some respects that varied were age and gender. Victims and perpetrators were relatively young and women constituted a higher percentage of victims than among murders as a whole. There was also a relatively high proportion of murder-suicides among the Facebook-related crimes.

Yardley also highlighted that the data did not suggest a causal link between Facebook itself and the crimes being studied.

"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."