16 Times The Internet Contributed To Solving A Crime Or Catching A Criminal

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As social media evolves right in front of our eyes, we're beginning to see more and more crimes solved with the help of the internet. Sometimes, such as in the case of the Boston Bomber, the internet’s detective skills aren't so successful. However, in the cases written about in this list, the internet evidence is what helped crack a story wide open. The internet detectives below understand that the web is more than just a tool for research; it can be used to bring about positive change in the world and solve mysteries that have long been forgotten, as well as new stories that seem hopeless.

Some of the instances on this list of the internet being harnessed to stop bad guys are run-of-the-mill lost computer stories, but some of these stories have impacted the way that authorities use the internet in court cases. Some of the online vigilantes profiled here have brought rapists to justice and solved cold cases that were decades old, helping to bring closure to the families and loved ones involved. 

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  • Lottery Winner Murderer Tracked Down By Websleuths

    Lottery Winner Murderer Tracked Down By Websleuths
    Video: YouTube

    Abraham Shakespeare's murder was a big deal in Florida. He was a day laborer who won $32 million dollars in the state lottery, only to be murdered by his financial advisor, Dee Dee Moore. Police suspected Moore, but they couldn't prove it until she began commenting on the Websleuths website under a false name, then refuting those claims under her actual name.

    Websleuths took note of the matching IP addresses, giving authorities the evidence they needed to arrest her. 

  • Twitter And Facebook Users Help Solve A Hate Crime

    Twitter And Facebook Users Help Solve A Hate Crime
    Video: YouTube

    After a 2014 incident in which two men were beaten up by a group of people because of their sexual orientation, Twitter and Facebook users cross-referenced pictures of the possible assailants with their restaurant check-ins. Ultimately, they were able to identify the culprits.

  • Anonymous Targets Pedophile Group

    Anonymous Targets Pedophile Group
    Video: YouTube

    In 2015, Anonymous began a concerted effort to expose a worldwide pedophile ring that had been operating in secret since at least the 1980s. Calling their effort "Operation Death Eaters," Anonymous began collating child sex cases from across the world and cross-referencing them with dark web subgroups.

    A spokesperson for Anonymous said, “The premise behind OpDeathEaters is to expose high level complicity, obstruction of justice and cover-up in the paedo-sadist industry in order to show the need for independent inquiries."

  • Man Murdered For His Civil War-Era Items

    Man Murdered For His Civil War-Era Items
    Video: YouTube

    Tattoo artist and 19th-century antiques collector Greg May was murdered and his body was cut up with a chainsaw. It took a year for police and federal investigators to prove that he was dead. All they knew was that his former roommate had stolen his $70,000 collection.

    It wasn't until they were contacted by Ellen Leach, an e-detective who was trying to solve what she thought was a different murder, with information about a severed head found in a bucket full of concrete, that they were able to charge the ex-roommate with murder.

  • Twitter Helps Find Stolen Laptop

    Twitter Helps Find Stolen Laptop
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    After a Canadian web consultant named Sean Power had his laptop, cellphone, health care card, and two copies of his birth certificate stolen while on a trip to New York, he thought all was lost. That is, until the free tracking app, Prey, located his laptop, took screenshots of the desktop and turned on his camera to show him who was using it.

    Power then hopped on Twitter to send his New York followers to the bar where his laptop was being used and help bring the thief to justice.

  • Retired Schoolteacher Discovers A Sinister Suicide Pact

    Retired Schoolteacher Discovers A Sinister Suicide Pact
    Video: YouTube

    In 2008, an 18-year-old girl named Nadia Kajouji was found dead after agreeing to a suicide pact with a woman named "Cami D," a nurse from Minneapolis. Only Cami D didn't really exist - she was actually William Melchert-Dinkel, a father of two who used online aliases to convince people to kill themselves.

    The authorities would have declared this a standard suicide if it weren't for Celia Blay, a retired schoolteacher and amateur web sleuth who discovered the truth about Melchert-Dinkel after meeting with others online who admitted to being in a suicide pact with one of the man's alliases. Blay had to convince Minnesota authorities to investigate her findings.