Bianca Devins, a 17-year-old girl from Utica in New York, was brutally murdered on Sunday, the Guardian reported.
Police allege she was killed by Brandon Clark, 21, after the pair, who met on Instagram, attended a concert together.
Discord and 4chan users phoned police after images of Devin’s body and Clark’s own injuries appeared on those sites.
Police subsequently confirmed that the images were authentic, and that they were engaging with the social media platforms to find out how those images were able to be shared.
Once police found Clark, he allegedly laid himself over a green tarp covering Devin’s body and took a selfie laying over the top of Devin’s body.
According to BuzzFeed News, a photo of Devin’s bloodied body was posted to Clark’s Instagram with the caption “I’m sorry, Bianca”.
The photo stayed up for several hours until Instagram ultimately removed Clark’s account for violating the company’s terms of service, but in the hours the photo was up, it got shared and reposted by hundreds of accounts, according to BuzzFeed.
Instagram has subsequently prevented the photo from being reshared, but according to Rolling Stone, users continued to be sent the photo if they were following Devin’s account, and as late as Monday night, the photo was still being uploaded and tagged to Devin’s account, or on the hashtag #ripbianca.
Users also reported on Twitter that reporting the image to Instagram did not result in the photo being removed.
At the time of reporting, it did not appear that any of the photos were still on Instagram.
Clark has now been charged with second-degree murder.
The speed at which the photos were shared, and the length of time it took for Instagram and others to take down the photos and stop them being reshared, has echoes in social media sites’ response to footage from the gunman of the Christchurch terror attack being shared.
In response to the attack, Australia swiftly passed new laws that made it an offense for content providers and hosting services to fail to notify the Australian federal police about or fail to expeditiously remove videos depicting “abhorrent violent conduct” including murders or attempted murders.
Australia’s e-safety commissioner now has the power to notify social media companies that they are deemed to be aware they are hosting abhorrent violent material, triggering an obligation to take it down.
But despite the photo being widely shared online, a spokesperson for the e-safety commissioner told the Guardian that no one had made a report that could spur the commissioner into action.
“Each report we receive is reviewed on a case-by-case basis so depending on the nature of the material posted it is possible that e-safety could issue a notice to the content and/or hosting service to indicate they are providing access to abhorrent violent material, as provided for under the criminal code,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday.
“At this point in time we have not received any reports regarding the posting of this murder online.”
A spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said the company was taking “every measure” to remove the photos from its platforms.
In a statement, Devins’ family said Bianca was a talented artist and a loving sister, daughter and cousin, and was taken too soon.
“She is now looking down on us, as she joins her cat, Belle, in heaven,” the family said. “Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our princess.”