In recent years, online social media has become an arena that aids in the processes of meaning-making for people who experienced crises, hardships, and particularly murders they encountered and affected their lives.
In the original “meaning-making” process, the close circle of victims did not tell their story publicly, and the process was carried out outside the public’s eyes. The process of “meaning-making” on online social media differs in two fundamental aspects. Firstly, it is public, and people from the writer's group of friends, or from the general public, are exposed to the writer's posts about loss and bereavement, the meaning they attribute to them and how they cope. Secondly, the degree of collaboration has changed. Not only is the process on social media visible to many people, but they can also participate through comments, sharing personal stories and more.
The study analyzes this phenomenon- using the activity for justice for Roman Zadorov as a case study. Zadorov was convicted of murder of a young girl and sentenced in 2010 to life in prison. However, a large majority of Israelis think he was wrongfully convicted. Consequently, there has been an intensive and unparallel social media activity calling for justice for Zadorov, mainly on Facebook. At the same time, the vast majority of the investigation materials were published on a dedicated website and on YouTube, and are accessible to the public. Recently (May 2021) Zadorov was granted a re-trial.
The study is based on Netnographic research of social media activity surrounding the justice for Zadorov activism. Netnography is a qualitative interpretive research approach - a digital version of ethnographic research, which deals with the study of the behavioral and communicative patterns of individuals and groups on the Internet
The findings indicate that there are multiple scenarios that arise frequently in the groups calling for justice for Zadorov about who committed the murder, why and how.
The court accepted the scenario promoted by the prosecution that Zadorov killed Tair Rada. But this scenario almost never appears in the groups. When it is mentioned it is also in order to be refuted. Occasionally one can find scenarios explaining why Zadorov admitted to the murder he did not commit.
The vast majority of these scenarios do not deal with "who did not commit the murder", but with who did commit it. Apparently, the focus in such positive scenarios derives from the writers’ need to construct a logical story, with a beginning, middle and end. They are not satisfied with knowing who is not the killer, but want to complete the picture and understand who did commit the murder, why, and what chain of events led to it.
It is fascinating to see the high level of detail in some of the scenarios. Some tell the story with great confidence, as if they were really there and know the people involved in person. Some include a physical description of (for example) the boy and two girls who (arguably) committed the murder, what they did with the clothes they wore, and how they hid their identity and disrupted the murder scene. Sometimes the posts include reference to their parents' (apparent) roles in the police, politics or the criminal world, as a motive for incriminating an innocent person and the "deadly silence" surrounding the murder between "those who know but do not tell".
The scenarios created by the activists are fundamentally different from the scenario adopted by the court in the various rulings, and "bring back to life" lines of investigation that the police have abandoned. The most popular scenario focuses on teens who committed the murder out of jealousy or hatred. According to another scenario, the victim was exposed to a drug deal or other criminal activity; her presence at the wrong place and time degenerated into murder. The third scenario places the blame for the murder on people associated with a Satanic cult. According to the fourth scenario, the killer is a psychopath who lusted to satisfy his murderous desires
The scenarios I reviewed were examined by the police and ruled out. The activists, who rely on the materials available online, rebuild the scenarios based on the original investigation materials and other materials that have come up over the years. However, there is also a scenario that is prevalent in several groups and has not been seriously considered by the police,- the "sub-arena scenario", according to which Tair was murder elsewhere and her body was removed to the murder scene some time later.