The Facebook murders
The wires were abuzz around this time last year. Twenty five year old Paul Bristol flew to London from Trinidad and Tobago to kill his ex-girlfriend, 27-year -old Camille Mathurasingh. He was enraged after seeing a photo of her on Facebook with another man. He stabbed her 20 times in her car in London. It became known as the Facebook murder.
There have been other similar incidents. One recalls the shock that shook Siparia when a mother of four left home for a date with a man she “met” on the internet. It turned out to be a date with death. Her decomposing body was found four days later mangled with the mangrove in the Manzanilla River. The autopsy revealed she had been strangled.
There are increasing reports of similar incidents around the world.
Emma Forrester of the UK changed her Facebook status to single after separating from her husband, Wayne He returned to their family home and hacked her to death with a meat cleaver. He claimed he was provoked when she changed her marital status to 'single' on Facebook.
In October last year, a married Zimbabwean man accused his mistress of having an affair after she altered her Facebook account. He whipped her with wire. Both were immigrants to Britain. He told British police that “such savage attacks” were common in his homeland.
Another, a mother-of-two was murdered by her jealous husband after she posted on Facebook that her marriage was over.
Teenager Ashleigh Hall was lured to her death by a convicted serial rapist,Peter Chapham. He had posed as a teenage boy on Facebook. They planned to meet. He collected her from her home in Britain, drove her to a lay-by, tied her up, raped and strangled her. Another schoolgirl met her ex-boyfriend, who was charged with murdering her, on the site.
Also in the UK Mary Griffiths was a Facebook friend of John McFarlane. He broke into her home when she was asleep, beat her and shot her twice with a bolt gun, normally used for stunning animals. He claimed to have been provoked by a message she had posted on Facebook that he was "delusional" if he believed they would ever have a relationship.
In less bloody forms of abuse, a former boyfriend posted nude photos and videos of a Philippine girl in an account he had created under her name. He mailed a copy of the video to her Muslim parents.
UK studies have shown increases in crimes linked to the social networking site - more than 100,000 in the last five years. Murders and rapes were among them bit they also found a range of range of other crimes, from terrorism and gun crimes to pedophilia, fraud, hate crimes, malicious messages, suicides and threats of violence.
Investigators found that offenders sometimes use fake identities and befriend victims scandalously in order to abuse their trust, bully, harass and use their private information for various ill doings.
The incidents have stimulated a raging debate on an off line. Facebook fans have been discussing their occurrences and entering the debating whether Facebook and similar social networking sites are encouraging such crimes, or whether the incidents merely mirror the extent of violence and abuse of women that already exists in societies.
Facebook estimates that more than 700 million Facebook updates are posted each day by its more than 400 million active users who share photos, messages, contact friends and link with others who share similar interests. In many cases, some of these interactions take place with strangers. One UK study found 85 per cent of women on Facebook in that region had been contacted by strangers on Facebook.
The internet has opened up private lives into new avenues of potential violence and has led to a rise in cases of electronic violence against women through cyber harassment, stalking, online pornography, and unauthorised recording, reproduction and distribution of images and videos.
Yet, it is believed to be social, even professional, “suicide" to avoid such sites. Even organisations like End Violence Against Women (EVAW), and the UNIFEM virtual knowledge centre to end violence against women, use the internet with the former also on Facebook.
The Association of Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Program (APC WNSP), based in the Philippines, is working to help women around the globe better understand new technology and its potential and impact on their rights and lives.
They too use the internet, among other forums, to communicate their messages, functioning from a belief that persons who understand technology - know how it works, how to use it and change it with technical knowledge have more control over it. Some of the tips they offer to persons to protect privacy on the internet are:
• Do not to disclose too much personal information to social networking or dating site, even such information as place of work, address or telephone number which can become a map to a potential killer.
• Pay attention to the consistency of the information being revealed by online ‘friends’. The more inconsistencies, the greater the chance that the person is lying about themselves.
• Stop all communication with people who are obsessed with trying to pry personal information from you.
• Be on the look-out for warning signs such as the use of foul language, disrespectful remarks, signs of anger for no apparent reason and elusiveness in answering direct questions.
• If one decides on a face-to-face meeting with a strange “friend”, under no circumstances agree to meet with that person at one’s home. Have these meetings in public and tell someone where the meeting would be, with whom and expected time back.