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Crime

Sharing details of mass killings on social media, online gaming sites ‘an emerging trend’: experts

WATCH: A psychologist said online audiences give criminals the attention real-life audiences often can't. Kamil Karamali reports.

Cybersecurity expert Daniel Tobok said he wasn’t surprised when he heard that quadruple homicide suspect Menhaz Zaman allegedly shared the details of the killings in on an online gaming chat group, called Perfect World, before and after the murders.

“There’s been an emerging trend in the past five to seven years,” said Tobok.

“What we’re seeing today is, with a lot of the social media platforms, a gateway — [to] have a new way to communicate your message, have a lot of viewers either commenting or being a part of that.”

Tobok adds that the world of gaming has ‘exploded’ over the past few years, and even though most of the online chatter is about gameplay, people have started using it as a platform to discuss more heinous activities.

READ MORE: Man charged in 4 Markham murders allegedly posts graphic details of deaths online

“It’s really what I call the new soapbox,” said Tobok.

“You can really attract more viewers that can listen to your message. If you go downstairs and you start communicating something, only 20 to 30 people will hear you. But if you go online, you have up to thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of viewers.”

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Examples include Yonge Street van attack suspect Alek Minassian, who used the web as a forum for his views against women. Police also said Danforth shooter Faisal Hussain was known to them for his online activity before the mass shooting in 2018. The New Zealand mosque attack was livestreamed.

And B.C. murder suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsy boasted about their far-right ideologies and even depicted Nazi paraphernalia online.

READ MORE: Man charged with 1st-degree murder after 4 people found dead in Markham home

Psychologist Oren Amitay said social media or gaming can provide mass killers with an audience they may not find in their everyday lives.

“If you know one friend who validates you or shares your experience, that’s nothing compared to supposedly having thousands of friends or followers giving you that validation,” said Amitay.

“People post these things online because it’s the fastest more efficient way to reach like-minded people.”

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Amitay also adds that people who go online to share details of gruesome killings or attacks usually feel like they don’t have a sense of purpose.

“When people don’t feel like they’re leaving a positive mark on society, any attention is good attention,” said Amitay. “That’s like children, essentially.

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“When they shout, don’t feel like they’re getting their needs met, their emotional and inter-personal needs met, then getting it done in a non-productive way — like screaming, crying, throwing a fit — that works for them, as well.”

Tobok said he doesn’t believe the online video game chat groups are enablers for accused mass killers, but said it’s up to those websites to monitor the conversations happening between gamers and to report suspicious activity.

“I feel social media has become such a big part of our life, they have a responsibility to help governments and police with that sort of behaviour.”

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Criminal psychologist says teen murder suspects need social media as part of survival
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