On the surface, the Doe Network is one of those sites that you really, really don't want your mother to know about. It's filled with information about dead and disappeared people, grisly data about missing limbs and decapitations, and, generally, all the disturbing content you can eat and more. It seems like little more than a poorly constructed shock site ... until you notice the words on the front page: "The Doe Network has been recognized as part of the Responsible Volunteer Community by the U.S. Dept. of Justice."
The Doe Network (as in John and Jane Doe) and its various spinoffs are all about solving cold cases with the power of Internet -- it includes thousands of volunteer investigators all over the country (and the world), each posting details about the missing and unidentified people on the Internet by pulling data from public records. Some become involved in helping out the family or search for DNA samples or dental records. Others spend their spare hours searching coroners' websites, forcing themselves to look at disturbing photos of the dead and comparing them to missing unidentified people.
"I swear, six more hours of this and I'm done."
If they think there is a possible match, they post it to the Doe Network to see if anyone else can add to the information. Eventually, when the community has gathered enough information, they pass it on to the police, who then use the evidence to either identify the remains or, when necessary, catch the culprit. A nice idea, in theory. But does this actually accomplish anything?
Well, since the Doe Network was established in 1999, it has played an instrumental part in solving a total of 66 cold case crimes and locating hundreds of missing people, both dead and alive. Not bad for a bunch of Internet strangers that, in other circumstances, would just be sitting on their thumbs and playing browser games.
Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images
Thanks to their hard work, our policemen are free to be more half-assed than ever.
For more bizarre criminal cases, check out The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain and The 6 Most Baffling Serial Crimes.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Groups of Fans Who Have Apparently Lost Their Mind .
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Related Reading: Think the Facebook of the Dead is a cool idea? You'll love these other cases of vigilantes solving crimes. Thanks to the Internet, even a 12-year-old can Batman her way to a conviction. For vigilante mystery-solving of the pop culture variety, this article is your huckleberry. Even the crazy chicken-scratch language in the Zelda games has been cracked and translated by fans. And if you're more interested in the "unsolvable" mysteries Science has figured out, give this link a good, hard click.