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Amsterdam Center for Social Media

This week in social media research: Crime, police and social media

Tessa van Charldorp

Plenty of research talks about the growing digital knowledge gap between social media users and non-users. Within this theme, three articles caught my attention this week that shed light on a very specific kind of gap: the gap between social media users who take part in criminal activities or help solve crime and the way social media is used by authorities such as the police.
blog TvC crime social media
“Gang members carry guns and Twitter accounts”
The first article “Internet banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop” implicitly points out this gap. Patton, Eschmann and Butler show us that people use social media not only to chat and discuss, but also to vent, express (extremist) views, hate, bully, troll, flame, steal, threaten and announce (for example upcoming criminal activities). Specifically, the article focuses on internet banging, where social media is “used to provoke, perpetrate, and publicize violent acts.” (p. A59). Gang members take part in internet banging mainly for “self-promotion” and “to gain and maintain street credibility.” The article references a few ‘successful’ police interventions over the last few years in which police caught gang members discussing crimes on Twitter they had already committed or were about to commit. One of these interventions even led to the arrest of 63 gang members in New York earlier this year. However, while this kind of social media usage seems to be entrenched in the life of gang members, the police seem to be mostly absent from or only just learning about such social media outlets.

Helping police efforts
A second article that demonstrates the lack of police presence on social media, is “Social media and the 2011 Vancouver riots” by Schneider and Trottier. Their qualitative media analyses point out that authorities can learn from social media activity during and after complicated real-life events such as riots. The authors use the Vancouver riots that occurred during the Vancouver Canucks hockey team Stanley Cup match against the Boston Bruins as a case study. Within 10 minutes of game-end, an individual set up a Facebook group ‘The Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photo’s’, which received 102,784 likes and 12,587 postings within a 14-day period. The majority Read the rest of this entry »

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