Social Media Investigations: Are They Ethical?

With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok, there has been a market for content about criminal cases. Many include unsolved murders or disappearances that first go over the details of the case but then take a questionable turn of speculating who the perpetrator is. One of these high-profile cases that were most recently covered was the murders of four Idaho college students. From the beginning of the case, many content creators began providing unconfirmed reports about the case and started accusing people of committing the murders. They began pointing fingers at neighbors, roommates, and even people who had just been around the victims that night. Some of the accused people faced negative backlash on their social media accounts with content consumers labeling them as the murderer and temporarily derailing their lives until the next suspect was accused.

This, however, brings into question whether this practice is ethical. As content creators, there is no standard for responsible journalism. Many of these content creators have little to no investigation background and are amateur informants to their followers. Additionally, social media platforms do not always fact-check the content that is posted to the community. Is it ethical for content creators to publicly accuse people of crimes if they believe they have information to support their claims? Can social media platforms continue to support content creators that have wrongfully accused people of crimes in the past? These accusations, though only in a virtual community, can and do have real repercussions for the “suspects.” People can lose their jobs, face scrutiny from their families, or even experience death threats. There is a big responsibility that should be considered when putting these people at risk of these things or possibly comprising police investigations for the sake of having something to post.

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7 thoughts on “Social Media Investigations: Are They Ethical?

  1. When the murders of the Idaho college students occurred, my social media became filled with theories and claims made by different people who were not professionals. I remember reading the comments and seeing people naming who they thought was a primary suspect, wishing death on them, and just spreading information about the case that may not have been true. That was scary to see and all the different information was both confusing and frustrating. I think it’s unethical for people to post with claims or accusations about a murder case because it may intervene with the ongoing investigation and could end up ruining the life of someone that’s innocent. This would be very hard for social media companies to regulate but one action they could take is spreading awareness to users and bigger content creators about posting information that’s ethical.

  2. Social media allows strangers on the internet to pry into others’ lives, especially if the case is particularly horrific. It’s easy to speculate and even point fingers when behind the screen where there are no repercussions. While it’s natural to be curious about the unknown in criminal cases, unnecessary and unfounded accusations may cause more harm than intended. Content creators should be responsible for the information they spread to their followers and to anyone that comes across their content. Fact-checking and appropriate handling of the cases should be the top priority as these criminal cases are often sensitive. Social media is how many people access the news and if misinformation is spread and wild accusations are cast, innocent people can be thrown into the spotlight for a crime they did not commit which can cause emotional, mental, and even physical damage.

  3. People always feel like they know more than they actually do. There are numerous platforms to easily share information, that it makes people bring out their impulsive side, and critical side. Most people don’t know what they are taking about, and there should be more libraries than wifi connections if I’m being honest.

  4. Social media provides anyone unlimited access to communication anywhere. Because of this, information can spread incredibly quickly and anyone has to right to post what they want. When it comes to true crime content creators on TikTok or podcasters they technically have the right to post this information but can become unethical. Because of social media, the Idaho murder gained an incredible amount of attention and followers of the case began to create their own theories. This phenomenon can be difficult for those who are affected by true crime cases especially because of the first amendment, anyone has the right to talk about it. True crime content creators should remain ethical when creating content so as they do not create further harm or risk

  5. The rise of social media has led to a disturbing trend of amateur content creators producing questionable content about criminal cases. While discussing unsolved cases is not by itself unethical, the speculative and accusatory nature of some of these videos raises some ethical. Content creators have a responsibility to ensure their content is factually accurate and does not wrongly accuse innocent people or bring a cancel campaign against individuals who are later found to be not guilty. That said, this has happened in the past when social media was not a thing. . Wrongful accusations can have serious consequences for a persons work and personal life and it is crucial that content creators go the extra mile to ensure that their content does not put innocent people at risk

  6. Social media is a powerful tool that grants people access to an insane amount of information but also misinformation. Anyone has the right to post and view whatever they like, it’s part of our rights here in the United States. The Idaho killer investigation was interesting because it was huge on Tiktok and that had people curious as to who the murder was. Inatley, these people are going to look for answers and do their own research. Accusing people of a crime such as murder is something very serious and something I don’t think many people took into account when making accusatory videos guessing who the killer was. A murder accusation can completely change someone’s life and even though they are innocent until proven guilty, the person’s reputation can take a big hit. I certainly don’t think it’s ethical to post videos accusing people of murder based on social media facts; however, it’s totally their right to do so.

  7. Whether these discussions are ethical depends on the tone and purpose of the discussion itself. There are pros and cons to these discussions as the article mentioned. Another pro I can think of is the power and wisdom of crowds.
    For sensitive topics like the Idaho murder case, discussions for entertainment purposes where people talk about human lives lightly should be considered inappropriate. However, investigation on the individual level should not be labeled as unethical under gross generalization.

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