"Internet banging:" How social media is fueling gang violence

May 27, 2015

Credit Scott Breale / Flickr

Gang members across the country aren’t just carrying guns. They’re also armed with Twitter and Facebook.

That’s the focus of a study whose title really says it all: "Internet Banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop."

It’s co-authored by Desmond Patton, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the School of Information.

Desmond Patton joins us today to talk about gangs and social networking. 

"They are talking about fights that they have been engaged in or fights that they are going to engage in. They are talking about people who have been killed or people that they may want to harm," says Patton. 

"What we need to think very critically about is, what are we dealing with here and how can we use information that we are privy to in this space to better support youth and help youth." 

Patton said youth, particularly youth who are growing up in challenging communities, are also expressing themselves in positive ways on social media.

"They are giving us very clear ideas about how they have to navigate violence, crime, and poverty in their neighborhood context," says Patton.

Patton argues we need to think about that as a privilege and not necessarily as a point of criminalization.

"I think that adults and police can think about ways to wrap around services using social media as a data point," Patton says.