Facebook Murder

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Facebook Murder]

    • 00:11

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY: I'm Elizabeth Yardleyand I'm an Associate Professor of Criminologyat Birmingham City University. [Elizabeth Yardley,Associate Professor of Criminology]And my specialist area is homicide and violent crimeand particularly, unusual types of homicide.So spree killings, family annihilators,health care serial killers, and hit men,and those sorts of topics.

    • 00:32

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: And I'm also interested in media and representation of homicidein the media, but also have newer typesof media are starting to be involvedin our study of homicide.[Researching Facebook murder]The case study that I'm going to talk about todayis some research that we conductedin 2014 called Facebook murder.

    • 00:54

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: That was the title of the piece of research that we did.And essentially, we were interested in lookinginto that term because we'd been coming across it in the mediaand we wanted to see, does this actually mean anything?Is there such thing as Facebook murder?So we set about investigating what exactly was goingon with this type of thing.

    • 01:15

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: There were two central aims of the research.Firstly, to investigate whether terms like Facebook murderare useful to criminologists investigating homicidebecause social media is becoming so prolific in everyday lifeand we wanted to see whether this was a concept thatwould be useful to us.And secondly, we wanted to investigate, essentially,

    • 01:35

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: what role do social networking sites play in homicide.How significant are they?What do they mean to the victims and the perpetrators?And is there anything that we can develop in termsof prevention out of that?[General trends and characteristics of homicide]The first thing that we needed to dowhen we were going about our research

    • 01:56

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: was to establish what homicide looks like in general.So we were able to pick out any unique characteristicsof homicides in which Facebook or other social networkingsites might have been involved.And that, essentially, consisted of two things.Firstly, we looked at official statisticsabout homicide, which tell us about homicide rates,

    • 02:17

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: whether they're increasing, decreasing,or staying the same.They tell us about victim and perpetrator characteristicsin terms of age and gender and ethnicityand those types of things.They also tell us details about the homicides themselves.So the methods or any particular weapons that he used.Secondly, we looked at the academic literature on homicide

    • 02:38

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: in terms of what that could tell usabout why the statistics look the way that they doand the different types of homicide that exist.So, for example, domestic homicides,which happen between intimate partners or parentsand children.So that helps us ask the why question.So looking at some of the general trendsand characteristics in terms of homicide,

    • 03:00

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: the first thing that we notice is that it's on the decline.This is a crime that's been decreasing for several years.And that's the case in England and Wales,and it's the case in the US as well.Secondly, it's a largely male perpetrator crime.Only around 10% of homicide offenders are women.So that's 90% male.

    • 03:21

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: So this is largely a male perpetrator crime.Another one of the key characteristics of homicideis that men are overrepresented as victims.So in the US, for example, men are three times more likelythan women to be the victims of homicide.The next point is that often thereis a very close social relationship between the victim

    • 03:43

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: and the perpetrator in a homicide.So that might be intimate partners.It might be parents and children.It might be friends and acquaintances.It's incredibly rare to be murderedby a stranger, somebody you've never met before.And lastly, one thing that was quite clear to uswas that homicide-suicides in which somebodykills someone else and then goes and takes their own life

    • 04:06

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: are incredibly rare.And we only found around 3% or 4%of all homicides featured that type of thing.[Identifying a sample of cases to work with]After we identified some general trends and characteristicsabout homicide, we needed to identify a sample to work with.So we were interested in cases where Facebookhad been reported as being involved

    • 04:28

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: in a murder or a case of manslaughter.So essentially, we set about lookingat press coverage, media coverage, of these homicides.And you might think using media coverage isn't a particularlygreat thing to do because not all homicides are coveredby the press.But actually because of the inclusion of the Facebook

    • 04:50

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: element to it, those crimes mightbe more likely to be reported by the press.So we were quite confident that the casesthat we were looking for were by and large the extent of allthe cases that were out there.So how did we go about doing this in a systematic way?Well, we used a database called Nexis, which is, essentially,

    • 05:12

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: a repository of a very large amount of press and newscoverage from around the world.And we used search terms, like social media, murder, killing,Facebook, all of those types of termsin various different combinations of each other.And that enabled us to come up with a very long list

    • 05:33

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: of potential cases that fit our criteria.So after identifying the cases from the news media coveragethrough Nexis, we supplemented wherewe could information with some details from legal databases,like Lexis and Westlaw.And often there is quite detailed informationavailable on particular cases from those sources.

    • 05:57

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: Now after we had all of that information,we needed to make sense of it.So essentially, we put it into a very big spreadsheetin which we logged details of the name of the perpetratorand the victim, their ages, their genders, whenthe crime happened, their relationship with one another,and the way in which social media figured

    • 06:18

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: in that particular case.So what was it about Facebook thathad been reported upon in relation to that homicide?[Are homicides involving Facebook unique?]So once we had all of our data, we established 48 cases,essentially, that we could see from around the world

    • 06:39

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: over around about a five-year period.So what we needed to do now was to go backto what we already knew about homicideand to see whether those homicides involving Facebookwere any different from those in general.Now firstly, one of the key thingsthat we noticed when looking at homicide in generalwas that there was a downward trend.The numbers of homicides were declining.

    • 07:02

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: And that was the case for those that we came across as well.These cases peaked in 2010 and declined year on yearafter that.So we could argue that very similar to homicide in general,homicides involving social networking sitesare on the decline.But we have to ask some critical questions about this.It could be that as Facebook and other social media

    • 07:24

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: sites are becoming more and more a parcel of everyday life,they're less unusual.So the press are reporting upon their presencemuch, much less in the same way that wedon't hear about the role of the telephone or lettersor other means of communication when welook at reporting of homicides.So we need to be careful.

    • 07:45

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: So while they might appear to be on the decline,that might not actually be the reality.One of the other facts that we knew about homicidewas that this is a male perpetrated crime, whichlargely features male victims and a close social connectionbetween the victim and the perpetrator.Now the cases that we came across,the homicides in which Facebook was involved,

    • 08:06

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: yes, it was largely a male perpetrated crimeand yes, there was a close connection between the victimand the perpetrator in most cases.But when you looked at who the victims were,women were overrepresented as victims.And that was something that was quite surprising to us.And when we looked in more detail at those casesand what those cases were, they tended

    • 08:27

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: to be typical of domestic homicide.So women who were killed by their partnersor their ex partners.And I think that's something that deserves a much moresignificant look at.Now when we started out, we knew that homicide-suicides werevery, very small in number.They were around 3% to 4% of all homicides.

    • 08:48

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: Now we had a look at our cases and lookedat what proportion of those 48 cases were homicide-suicides,and we were quite surprised by what we found because around 1in 5, 20% of the cases in our sample,were cases where somebody had killed somebody elseand then they'd gone off and taken their own life.So this was something that was incredibly important to look

    • 09:11

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: at in more detail.Is Facebook and other social networking sites,is that the ultimate suicide note in contemporary society?And there hasn't been a lot of research done on this,but it's something that's definitelyworth some further investigation.Another finding was that there was a relatively young ageprofile, both for the victims and the perpetrators

    • 09:34

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: of these types of crime involving social media.And that's not particularly surprising in itselfbecause by and large there is quite a young agedemographic of people using social media.It's being picked up on by the younger generationmuch more so than it has been by older generations.So that could just be a feature of that.

    • 09:54

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: [How is Facebook part of the story in homicide?]Now one of the other things that we were interestedin was looking at how Facebook wasused by perpetrators in relation to the homicidesthat we looked at.What exactly was the deal with Facebook?And when we looked in quite intricate detail

    • 10:15

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: at this, some of the details around these cases,we could see some quite distinct patterns.And we came up with a typology of six different types of usageof Facebook in these homicides.Now the first type of usage we came acrosswas a category that we've called the reactor.

    • 10:36

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: So this is somebody who sees some content posted on Facebookand reacts by attacking their victim offline.It's very much one way.There's not very much time in between one thingand the other thing happening.So the reactor is the first type.The second type is the informer.

    • 10:56

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: So this is somebody who uses Facebook to either communicatethat they're about to go out and kill somebodyor that they have just done so or both.So this is a communicative act.They're, basically, using the social media platformto say, look, this is what I've done.The next type is the antagonist.

    • 11:17

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: Now this is slightly different from the reactorin that there's a two-way hostile exchange that goes onon the social networking site between the victimand the perpetrator, almost to the pointthat it's quite difficult to tell how it started.Now that conflict escalates.It goes offline.And unfortunately, ends up in something somebodylosing their life.

    • 11:38

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: Now the next type of perpetrator we came acrosswas the fantasist.So these were people who use social media to, essentially,indulge in a fantasy in a kind of lifethat was very different to the one that they live in realityor where they're constructing a particular personaor a particular life that they want to lead.

    • 12:00

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: And the homicide is a way of maintaining that fantasyor of preventing people finding out about it.Another type that we came across was the predator.Now these were very, very few in number, probablythe smallest number that we came across.These are people who, basically, make up

    • 12:20

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: fake profiles on Facebook in order to befriend their victimand lure them to meet them offline.Now given that there was an awful lot of panicin the early days around the internet and the dangersthat it posed to children, we started off with the assumptionthat, perhaps, predators would be quite a significant group.But actually they weren't.

    • 12:40

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: They were very, very small in number.Now the final type that we came across was the impostor.Now these are people who use Facebook to pretend to besomebody that they aren't.But that person isn't a fantasy.That person is somebody who really exists.So they could be posting in the name of the victim

    • 13:01

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: to make out that the victim is still alivewhereas actually they've murdered this personor it could be that they are posting as somebodyelse in order to gain access to the victim's profileor their status updates.[Key concepts.Facebook homicides are not dissimilarto general homicides, but there are differences.Women are overrepresented as victims.Homicide suicides are disproportionately represented.Six key types of killers suggest distinct patterns in useof social media.]

    • 13:32

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: In summary, what we found in this piece of researchis that homicides where Facebook is involvedare not that different to homicides in general.But there are some interesting characteristics,which we think deserve a little more scrutinyin future research.So women are overrepresented as victims and homicide-suicides

    • 13:52

      ELIZABETH YARDLEY [continued]: are disproportionately represented.We also came up with those six types of killer,six types of use of Facebook in homicide,which suggested that there are patternsto the use of social media in this crime.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Facebook Murder

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Abstract

Professor Elizabeth Yardely discusses her research into the role of Facebook and social media in homicides. She explains how social media creates disproportionate broadcasting of homicides that do not match the normal profile of homicide crimes.

SAGE Video Cases
Facebook Murder

Professor Elizabeth Yardely discusses her research into the role of Facebook and social media in homicides. She explains how social media creates disproportionate broadcasting of homicides that do not match the normal profile of homicide crimes.

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