Police are investigating a death in Utica, New York, of a teenage girl who was killed by a young man who posted graphic violent images of her body on social media sites. Users in far-right corners of the internet are hailing the killing, further demonstrating the proclivity for violent extremist acts among the participants in those digital enclaves.
The Observer-Dispatch, a Utica newspaper, reported yesterday that Utica police were investigating a death with some details that matched unverified claims that had been shared online about the killing of the teenager identified as Bianca Devins, an aspiring social-media influencer and model. WKTV confirmed today that the victim in question was Devins. NBC New York reports that the death is still being investigated, “appears to have involved an image posted to Instagram” and that police plan to meet with Devins’ family today. Soon after the story broke, the hashtag “#ripbianca” trended on Twitter.
The alleged killer posted graphic images to Instagram showing the teenage girl with her neck slashed, and one of himself with a wound suggesting that he had slit his own throat. (Right Wing Watch reviewed these images and the Instagram account from which they came, but will not be publishing the graphic images in question.) Despite early reports that Devins connected with her killer online, Heavy reports that Devin’s sister “says the suspect was a family friend” and BuzzFeed News reports that Utica police said that “the couple had just attended a concert together and were in a relationship.”
On 4chan and 8chan, users shared graphic images of the homicide and lauded the killer for his actions. On 4chan’s “r9k” board, where discontented young men gather to deride women for their appearances and share their loathing for society, some users argued that the killing was justified; others went as far as to celebrate it. On incel forums online, similar sentiments were shared. Incel communities online exist as places where young men convince each other that they have a right to expect sex from women and encourage each other to adopt extreme and violent misogyny as a response to their failures.
A post allegedly appeared on a now-defunct Facebook page called “Darkcel Gaming” with an image of the suspected killer before reports circulated of the young woman’s death. Users in incel communities have committed multiple murders and acts of mass violence in recent years, including an attack that killed 10 people in Toronto last year.
Social media platforms such as 4chan have repeatedly failed to moderate their sites in order to curb the extremist elements brewed and propagandized on their platforms, and law enforcement has struggled to grapple with the threats of violence these digital spaces help foster.
(Updated: 3:08 p.m.)