Crime Facilitation Purposes Of Social Networking Sites: A Review And Analysis Of The Cyberbanging Phenomenon

There have been growing claims in media circles and law-enforcement settings that street gangs and criminal groups are turning to Internet-based social networking sites for various reasons ranging from the showcasing of their images and exploits to the suspected recruitment of members. The present study investigates whether such a trend is, in fact, in place. The presence of street gangs on these Internet sites is referred to as cyberbanging. While there is some anecdotal evidence suggesting that gangs are turning to social networking sites, there is little available research on exactly how street gangs and criminal groups use the Internet. Our main argument is that gang culture is in many ways an individualized phenomenon and this feature ties in directly with recent assessments of the Internet as a setting that is governed by a process of networked individualism. This theoretical link between the individualized gang setting and the presence of gang members on social networking sites helps us understand why recruitment is improbable even in a context where people are openly diffusing their image and exploits to a growing number of Internet users. The empirical segment of this research adds to this general outlook. Based on a keyword search of over 50 street gang names, the three main social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace) were monitored for street gang presence. Results illustrate that gang presence on social networking sites is linked primarily to promoting a general gang or street culture through individual displays. In regard to the visitors to such sites, there is no evidence that they are being tricked or manipulated in any way. They are, however, showing their curiosity in regard to such groups and, for those who share their comments and opinions, signs of support are evident. Thus, whereas criminal gangs are not proactively using the Internet to convert anyone into being gang members, social networking sites are creating a new venue for people who share or are sensitive to the values underlying street gang lifestyle to come together. These sites essentially create a new convergence setting for gang members to interact with a wider number of people who would probably never have been exposed to their lifestyles and exploits through physical interactions. The study’s conclusion extends these findings toward further research in this area, as well as outlining the more relevant implications for law-enforcement monitoring of this growing phenomenon.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 12 octobre 2017 à 13 h 04 min.