From the Streets to the Tweets: Social Network Analysis of Canadian Street Gang Members and Their Use of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube

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Campisi, Francesco
Criminology , Social Media , Street Gangs , Network Analysis , Centrality Measures , Cyber-banging , Sociology , Content Analysis , Canadian Street Gangs , Facebook , Twitter , Youtube , Criminal research
In the last two decades, the use of social networking sites (SNS) has increased at an astounding rate. Research regarding street gangs’ use of social media generally suggests two assumptions: Firstly, street gang members have infiltrated SNS, and have transferred much of their gang culture from the real world to the virtual one—a process known as cyber-banging. Secondly, street gangs have begun using SNS to recruit potential members; a fear propagated by newspapers and police forces. While cyber-banging has be well documented, the same cannot be said about online recruitment. This study achieved two goals: firstly, using a similar keyword search to that which was utilised by Morselli & Décary-Hétu (2013) this study empirically illustrates the prevalence of cyber-banging and recruitment on SNS. To accomplish this goal, this study sampled 23 Twitter users and 36 Facebook users flagged as street gang members across Canada, along with 10 YouTube rap videos created by gang members. Secondly, using a network analysis add-on to Microsoft Excel called NodeXL, this essay employed social network analysis to test whether centrality measures can extrapolate gang roles within a gang member’s Twitter network. Using content analysis, the results demonstrated that the most prominent type of cyber-banging is content that promotes gang ideologies. The results also conclude that none of the content on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can be considered proactive recruitment techniques. Regarding the second goal, using a combination of degree centrality, betweenness centrality and eigenvector centrality measures, results suggest many of the gang members are central in their network, but probably not gang leaders; while a look at the relationship between activity levels and number of followers on Twitter demonstrate four possible roles a SNS user has within his gang.
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