Law enforcement sees trend of crimes being committed on social media

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Crimes being played out on social media are becoming more common.

It happened in Louisville, Kentucky, Memphis, and even here in Columbus.

People are being killed with a virtual audience watching.

Mass shootings and frightening moments are all captured on a cell phone now.

Mental health expert Veronica Harrison said many people pulling the trigger want attention.

She believed their need to be seen and heard fuels the live-streaming violence trend.

“They need to see comments. They want to see their audience and somehow this madness has become entertainment. You don’t want to look at it but you can’t turn away. It’s mesmerizing almost and then we have this overwhelming urge and need to share it with somebody else,” said Harrison.

Harrison believed all groups will share the content on social media.

However, oftentimes the people committing the crime have a detachment from reality.

“Children have had little computers, tablets, and telephones in their hands from toddler age. They’ve always been connected to something that was not real… We have become so consumed with having an audience for whatever madness we are perpetrating that we forget to be human. And instead of seeking to meet those needs and getting our mental health needs met, we take our mania and madness to social media,” said Harrison.

Sharing, liking, commenting, or even tagging someone in a post tells the algorithm used by social media sites to show you more of that content.

However, MUW Professor Dr. Barry Smith said the technological capabilities to take the violence off the sites using artificial intelligence are a step behind.

“It’s difficult to know whether that’s real or whether that is staged, whether that’s a clip from a movie. You know, a lot of times these automated systems will try to find certain content and take it down. And usually, they’re pretty bad at it honestly because they can’t differentiate between things that are okay and things that are not okay,” said Smith.

There are advantages to social media but the dark side of society is very easy to find.

“People are doing things that are dangerous, dangerous to themselves, dangerous to others, property damage, and sometimes even violent. There can be an emboldening for young people especially,” said Smith.

There are several court cases happening right now to determine if social media companies can be held responsible for their algorithm inciting misinformation, hate speech, and violence.

If you’re struggling with mental illness, there are resources for support below.

Community Counseling Services (662)328-9225

Mississippi Department of Health 1(877)210-8513

National Alliance on Mental Illness 1(800)950-6264 or  ‘NAMI’ to 741-741 for 24/7 assistance

The National Mental Health Hotline 1(866)903-3787

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255

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