Viral clips of murder may help drive contagious copycat killings

Copycat crime? (Image: AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)

IT IS now possible to watch footage of someone being murdered on your Facebook feed, sandwiched between a holiday sunset selfie and a cat playing the piano. That’s not just bizarre and unpleasant: it could encourage people to commit such acts more often.

The latest shareable carnage is the killing of Virginia local television reporters Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who were shot last Wednesday by a former colleague. After the murder, the shooter orchestrated a full social media publicity roll-out, including a manifesto and the video he had taken of the shootings, before killing himself a few hours later. The shooter’s Twitter profile accrued more than 23,000 followers, the video went viral on Facebook and was compressed into shareable gifs for easier dissemination.

Some considered sharing these images an ethical imperative. “Our society unfortunately needs vivid reminders of …

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