On Monday, rapper PnB Rock, whose real name was Rakim Allen, was shot and killed while eating lunch with his girlfriend at a Los Angeles Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. Shortly after the 30-year-old father’s death, social media users observed his attackers had possibly been able to locate him from his girlfriend’s Instagram story, which showed where they were eating. The woman, Stephanie Sibounheuang, has since been subjected to a barrage of viral tweets blaming her for Allen’s death, questioning why she didn’t have a gun to protect him, and— sans evidence—claiming she took out a life insurance policy on the rapper days before the shooting. All… because she posted a photo of waffles to her Instagram story.
It certainly doesn’t help that Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said on Tuesday that Sibounheuang’s Instagram post may have helped Allen’s attackers locate him, telling reporters the rapper “was with his family—with his girlfriend or some kind of friend of his—and as they’re there, enjoying a simple meal, [he] was brutally attacked by an individual who apparently [came] to the location after a social media posting.”
Rather than blame the men who killed PnB Rock, the outpouring of social media hate is directed almost entirely at Sibounheuang, who had to watch her partner die, has lost the father of her young child, and is likely traumatized. She’s now being subjected to a dehumanizing online smear campaign—an increasingly common phenomenon targeting women who have already survived trauma.
Amid the widespread hate Sibounheuang is facing in the aftermath of her partner’s murder, some have stepped up to defend her. But in at least one case of this, an Instagram post by music executive J. Prince “defended” the woman by… implicitly blaming PnB Rock for not controlling his girlfriend’s social media? The post begins, “To all of you dumb mothafuckas blaming his girlfriend for his death, you’re wrong as 2 left shoes. Here’s a woman that’s been traumatized by seeing her boyfriend killed in front of her and you dumb fucks are adding insult to injury with dumb shit that you dont know to be facts.” The caption then continues: “As a man and leader you have to teach your girl what and what not to do- if you know.”
The reaction to PnB Rock’s death and the Instagram factor of it all extends from a broader conversation about celebrities and safety concerns with location-sharing. In a 2019 interview, Kim Kardashian said that the 2016 attack on her hotel room in Paris, in which she was held up at gunpoint, fundamentally changed how she uses social media. Possible risks associated with social media use are certainly greater if celebrities are aware of potential threats to their lives. Comments from PnB Rock made shortly before the shooting suggest he was aware that he, his girlfriend, and their child were potentially being by robbers.
Safety risks from social media are a real issue, but the mad rush to blame a grieving woman for murder for sharing a photo of food comes across less as a ~teachable moment~ for cybersecurity, and more like yet another internet harassment campaign targeting a woman who’s already suffering.