Several other gay Web sites and services have joined the online manhunt for alleged serial killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan, suspected of slaying fashion designer Gianni Versace.
PlanetOut, Gay.Net, OnQ on America Online, and Pride Media on CompuServe are offering pictures, information, and other links on Cunanan, hoping to take advantage of their extensive reach into the gay community.
Several are offering news stories and other interactive elements available only on the Web. PlanetOut, for instance, is offering bulletin boards to discuss Cunanan and his impact on the gay community and also is offering Netizens an email tip line. PlanetOut would then strip the message of its identity and deliver it to the FBI, according to Tom Rielly, CEO of PlanetOut.
While Cunanan's picture has been plastered in gay communities throughout the country such as San Francisco's Castro district, Rielly said he's hoping that the online messages reach gays who might not see those nonvirtual signs. Police say Cunanan has targeted closeted, well-off gay men, a demographic specifically targeted by some online communities.
"Maybe we'll reach some closeted people who might not normally read about it," Rielly added. "We want to reach people who don't live in gay and lesbian ghettos, who may not understand that this guy is preying on gay people. We feel there's a responsibility to let people know and especially to let people know who are not news junkies."
George Grotz, a spokesman for the FBI, said he applauds the effort. "Anything you can do to get the word out would be great," he said. The bureau posted Cunanan's picture on its home page in May.
While Cunanan is known to target gay men, law enforcement officials warn that he is a dangerous man and that everyone, not just gays, should be on the lookout for him.
While the Net is still a relatively new medium, Grotz said that already two fugitives identified by Net surfers have been found. In this case, it's especially important to notify gay men about Cunanan because he doesn't strike randomly, he added.
Andy Cramer, CEO of Gay.Net, said he's hoping that by exposing people to the story, he'll help protect gay men everywhere. "We have something going on with the Internet that's very potent. There's a reason to go out and really help any way we possibly can, and we'll do that."