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

Updated March 31, 2021 178.6k views16 items


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. 

  • 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

    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.

  • Football Players Post Pics Of Rape, The Internet Takes Care Of The Rest

    Video: YouTube

    The Steubenville rape case divided the country after it was reported that multiple high school football players got a girl drunk, raped her, and posted pictures and videos on Instagram and Twitter. By the time the football players wised up and started removing the incriminating evidence, a blogger named Alexandria Goddard had already taken screenshots of everything and reposted them to her site.

    Two of the players were arrested and charged with being "delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt."

  • Cold Case Solved: Lynda Jane Hart

    Photo: Pascalmwiemers / Pixabay / Pixabay License

    In 2011, a network of users on Websleuths was able to identify a skeleton discovered in a vacant lot in 1988 as Lynda Jane Hart, the subject of a long cold missing persons case.