This is the second case that I am aware off that involved using Facebook to develop a relationship that ended up in the murder of a young female. The first case, which was in the UK (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/8556914.stm) and discussed by John Ollson in issue 3 of DFM relates to the use of Facebook by a known sex offender. Whilst the second case (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/8556914.stm) took place in Sydney, Australia and concerns a young lady who went to meet someone after being promised a job working with Animals.
You cannot help consider if this is just the tip of the iceberg and that many more inappropriate contacts are happening everyday but go unreported, is it Facebook and the online social networking phenomena that is to blame? or is it the fact that Facebook was used that makes it newsworthy and gets it reported?
Is it possible to draw some parallels with the online dating agencies? Now I can accept that there are a lot more barriers and checks in place in establishing that the person who you are going to meet is someone real who is looking for a relationship; however just as it is easy to be invisible on Facebook until the day you meet so to is it possible on a dating site. How many times have you heard that a false photograph has been used? I also wonder if or how many murders have been committed following a meeting via an online dating agency, but because it is accepted that these sites exist and are mainly for adults that they do not get reported in the same way that murders that have a Facebook connection do, especially where children are involved.
For the online digital investigator of such crimes, as with most crimes of this nature the investigation is post event and entails looking at the computers and mobile phones of the victim and possibly the accused. In issue 1 of DFM we had an article written by Jeff Bryner who developed a tool for Facebook Memory Forensics (http://www.jeffbryner.com/pdfbook), so we have post event tools, but how do we get proactive, is it purely down to awareness and simple precautions by users of the social networks or do those who provide the facility have a responsibility to police the online service; even if it were feasible the ethics and scale would make the task almost impossible.
So what do we do, wait until enough crimes have been reported that the message finally gets through to users of the service, increase third party awareness campaigns or challenge Facebook to provide an online induction training session that has to be gone through before access is granted (a bit late for that I think).
One thing is certain; I do not think that this is the last incident that will be reported.