Cripps, Bloods, Dragons, other gangs tweet and payback

Web Developer Gang Sign
Gang Signs on the Web creative commons image by JL! via Flickr

Gang members use social media to organize payback missions or to snuff out snitches. A Washington Post article cited by Gawker and dugg 172 times reports that gangs regularly use Facebook and Twitter to keep tabs on potential turncoats or to figure out if there are undercover agents among them. A recently released LA gang member was just about to be eliminated by his twittering “brothers.” Suspecting that he had cut a deal with the authorities, the gang shared its suspicions on Twitter. Lucikly, the police was also listening in by “following” the gang related thread on Twitter and intervened just in time to prevent the assassination. A Gawker commenter also noted that authorities now customarily jam cellular transmissions from inner city hospital ERs. The decision came in the wake of several payback shootings triggered by photographs of gang victims sent from ERs via mobile phones. The photographs were used to identify the victims’ other associates, who would also be pursued and shot.

These incidents reveal how instantaneous communication, real time monitoring of one’s environment, and easy access to a group of friends and associates–some of the most important characteristics of social media and Web 2.0 technologies–can be used as tools both for and preventing crime. We live a truly confusing time.

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Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

One thought on “Cripps, Bloods, Dragons, other gangs tweet and payback

  • February 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

    If gang members are stupid enough to use social websites such as Twitter and Facebook, then they deserve to get caught. The idea of privacy does not exist anymore once you allow yourself to submit to the various websites. I guess the age of the old mobster is gone and replaced with the age of technology with no privacy.


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