While the exact circumstances of the crash are unclear, the outrage unleashed on Facebook, Twitter and other websites has highlighted the murky phenomenon of cyber “hate mobs” on popular social networking sites, the AFP reports. Behind this trend is what is known as “Internet disinhibition”, said Adrian Skinner, a clinical psychologist in Britain who has researched behavioural differences on the web.

“It’s now well established that some people can behave in a much less inhibited way on the Internet, and the primary reason is that they feel there’s no return, no comeback,” he told AFP.

He explained this “lowered sense of responsibility” was coupled with the fact that writing online involved much less effort than taking to the streets in a revenge-seeking crowd — a more likely option in the pre-Internet age.

“A mob can form much more easily because of electronic communication,” he said. “It’s much easier for this phenomenon of an ‘e-mob’ to grow.”

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staff and wire services reports