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Murders that involve social media might leave digital breadcrumbs for investigators — but otherwise they’re pretty much like any other foul deed, according to a new study. Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson examined 48 cases of “Facebook murder” — cases where use of the social-networking site was reported by the media as a significant factor in the crime. Their conclusion: There isn’t anything truly out of the ordinary about these slayings. “Killings reportedly involving Facebook would appear — on the whole — to reflect what we know about homicide in general,” Yardley said in an email. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The researchers identified six types of killers among the Facebook-related cases, most of which occurred in the U.K. and the U.S. But they say it's unlikely that social media increased or decreased the likelihood of a homicide. “I don’t think Facebook is any more to blame for these killings than a knife is to blame for a stabbing,” Yardley said. “Facebook is a tool for communication and we should be looking at what it is that people are trying to communicate.” Their study was published in the peer-reviewed Howard Journal of Criminal Justice.