No two gangs are alike: The digital divide in street gangs’ differential adaptations to social media

Journal article


Whittaker, A, Densley, J and Moser, KS (2020). No two gangs are alike: The digital divide in street gangs’ differential adaptations to social media. Computers in Human Behavior. 110, pp. 106403-106403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106403
AuthorsWhittaker, A, Densley, J and Moser, KS
Abstract

© 2020 The Authors

Social media provide novel opportunities for street gangs to operate beyond their traditional borders to sell drugs, recruit members and control their territory, virtually and physically. Although social media have contributed to the means available to street gangs today, it does not mean that every gang agrees on their use. Drawing on different perspectives (ex-gang members, law enforcement) on gangs using a multi-method design in a London borough, the current study shows that social media have polarized gangs, resulting in two distinct types of digital adaptation. The proposed division of ‘digitalist’ and ‘traditionalist’ gangs is rooted in Thrasher's (1927) dictum that no two gangs are alike and explains how some gangs prefer to keep a low profile, thus, avoiding social media use. ‘Digitalists’, by contrast, prefer to use social media as a way to gain reputation and territorial expansion. They use it to brand themselves and to appear attractive for recruits and customers alike. These differences can be theoretically explained firstly as a generational gap, meaning that younger gang members prefer the use of social media; and secondly, by how well established a gang already is, as newer gangs need more attention to establish themselves.

KeywordsGangs ; Crime; Social media; County lines; Generation gap
Year2020
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Journal citation110, pp. 106403-106403
PublisherElsevier BV
ISSN0747-5632
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106403
FunderLondon Borough of Waltham Forest
Publication dates
Online25 Apr 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted23 Apr 2020
Deposited13 May 2020
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Open
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