Gang Members on Facebook: Should We Look the Other Way?
A Special Report of the National Gang Crime Research Center
George W. Knox
Chicago, National Gang Crime Research Center.
Please visit the main website for the NGCRC: www.ngcrc.com.
Gangs have had a presence on the internet since its inception. This became noticeable during the 1990's when it became fashionable for gangs to use free webspace from internet service providers to put up their own "gang webpage". Finding gangs on Geocities, Blackplanet, and especially Myspace, along with other internet service providers (ISP’s) provided the foundation of what today is known as gang internet investigation --- a specialized area of expertise in gang investigation. Gangs like the Crips wanted to use the internet to get their message across "Crippin' ain't easy, but it sure is fun", and police and gang researchers were eager to monitor these open sources of gang intelligence.
The purpose of this report is to provide an indepth review of the scope and extent of gang activity on Facebook. It comes as no surprise that gang members are on Facebook, this report will review not just gang members on Facebook, but a number of other related threat groups as well.
About a decade ago, the gang presence on the Internet became significant enough to justify special training for Gang Specialists, and the NGCRC began to provide training in the area of Gang Internet Investigation, a specialized area of study. The NGCRC holds its training conference every year in Chicago, and in 2012 again there are a number of training sessions devoted explicity to the issue of gang use of social media.
First, though, we need to illustrate how some other internet service providers have made it easy to report and therefore deactivate "free" gang websites by means of anonymous citizen complaints or reports. Because allowing ISP users to help police the internet community can help to reduce abuses by gangs and extremist groups.
Some ISP's Make it Easy to Deactivate Gang Websites
On Myspace, to report a gang site you: click CONTACT Myspace (on the right), attach a screen shot if possible, include the Myspace friend ID or vanity profile where you found the site (the url).
To report abuse on Myspace it is easy: click the icon in the upper right corner, it gives you the option to: block user, report abuse. Click the report abuse option. In this screen, you do need to provide your first name, last name, email address, type of complain, and most importantly, you can provide additional narrative information. The additional information you provide would be something like this: “This website is objectionable and a violation of the Terms because it is a gang website, to wit: it uses and represents gang symbols, it uses gang language and gang argot, and it spreads gang violence through the internet.” You should demand that the entire Myspace account be deactivated.
There is also a "verify your submission" visual image you need to type in.
Most importantly, you do not need to have a Myspace account to make a Myspace complaint. In Facebook, you can only make a complaint about gangbanging or hate groups if you are logged on to your own Facebook account
Facebook Has a More Complicated Procedure for Even Reporting Gang Websites
There may be nothing wrong, technically, in the language used by Facebook that would prohibit violent gangs and extremist groups from using this social media. Facebook tends to have a laissez faire policy, or hands off doctrine, when it comes to dealing with gangs. If a teacher found a child looking at a Black P. Stone Nation gang Facebook page, the teacher would face an uphill battle to report the page as a problem to the company personnel at Facebook. This is true because under the “report group” option you can report a group for five reasons: (1) spam or scam, (2) contains hate speech or attacks an individual, (3) violence or harmful behavior, (4) nudity, pornography, or sexually explicit content, (5) duplicate, fake, or miscategorized page. If you pick violence or harmful behavior you receive another prompt for one of five different categories: which asks you to provide a reason for this report. Then you need to pick one of the five types of reasons: 1. credible threat of violence, 2. self-harm, 3. graphic violence, 4. theft or vandalism, 5. drug use.
There is no option to report that a violent criminal street gang is gang-banging on Facebook! You would be forced to claim that a “credible threat of violence” exists. When you do report someone, or a site: there is no option to provide details such as "this is a street gang site....and the gang is well-known to the public as a violent criminal street gang".
Facebook makes it even harder to report gang websites by requiring anyone reporting a gang website to do so from their own Facebook account! Facebook does not allow anonymous tips about gangs, extremists, or hate groups that may be using Facebook to advance their criminal and/or violent and/or racist purposes.
Knowledge of Subcultural Language Required
A knowledge of the subcultural language
is required to identify the subculture. The principle is that language communicates
the values of the subculture or group. Thus, to locate a gang you need to at
least have a good street gang glossary. There are a number of these in circulation.
The first systematic and professional treatment of gang argot was reported in
Volume 4, Number 4 (Summer 1997) of the Journal of Gang Research, it was entitled
"The Gang Dictionary: A Guide to Gang Slang, Gang Vocabulary, and Gang Socio-linguistic
Phrases", pp. 66-75. It is still used for the purposes of gang internet investigation,
because you need to know the language to search for them on-line. Also recommended
is this: Street Gang and Correctional Glossary, 2nd Edition, by Dr. Manuel R.
Roman, Jr. (2011, BVT Publishing, Redding, CA).
The Laissez Faire Policy: Allowing Extremists, Hate Groups, and Street Gangs to Spread Their Values Through the Internet
We will illustrate some of the techniques of gang internet investigation to illustrate how easy it is to locate and identify security threat groups on the internet, specifically on Facebook. There appears to be a high volume of activity by extremists, militia, white supremacists, right wing extremists, and street gangs on Facebook is the conclusion reached here. This combined with the difficulty of reporting such groups under the hope of getting their websites deactivated tends to imply Facebook has a laissez-faire policy with regard to security threat groups.
We will examine some of these now. So if you want, read this story when you are at a computer terminal, and you can go to www.facebook.com and follow along. We are certainly aware from past experience, that usually when we report such activity in print, sometimes there is the tendency to find these sites "no longer available". We are just reporting what we found in March, 2011.
1. Domestic Islamic Extremist Gangs Represented on Facebook
The Five Percenters are a domestic extremist Islamic STG in many state and federal prisons. They exist on Facebook. Just search “Five Percenter”. The Five Percenter newspaper is advertised on Facebook. You can also find the Black P. Stone Nation (BPSN) on Facebook giving their shoutout with a symbol of the pyramid and the phrase (in a picture image) “Almighty Black P Stone”. The BPSN is an Islamic gang headed by Jeff Fort, now serving life in prison for terrorism charges related to a conspiracy involving the BPSN gang’s willingness to work for the country of Libya to blow up American planes. The BPSN page, though, is hidden in a large number of pages that come up under the search for “Black Stone” which are not related to the BPSN. The Vice Lords, in particular the cop killer Insane Vice Lords, are also an Islamic criminal gang, but we will address the Vice Lords in the end of this analysis under the category of street gangs on Facebook.
2. Militia Groups and Sovereign Citizens Groups Represented on Facebook
There are a number of militia organizations that have Facebook pages. They do not seem too popular, but they exist, like the 12th Missouri Watchmen Militia. The Michigan Militia has a Facebook page. The Illinois Sons of Liberty militia has a Facebook page. The militia organizations are good at providing links to other militias on the internet.
Posse Comitatus is on Facebook in a significant way, just type in “Posse Comitatus”. One of the linguistic codes that can be used to track this group, particularly the Freemen, is the expression “accept for value”, abbreviated “A4V”, which is the explanation of their theory of redemption in the bogus financial claims they have levied against persons in government. So if you type in “A4V” again you will find a significant number of different sites for the Posse Comitatus, aka “Sovereign Citizens” movement.
3. White Supremacist Gangs on Facebook
One blog writer used the term “on message” to describe how white racist extremist gang (WREG) members are already aware that they cannot use common terms or expressions such as "14-88" on facebook. Instead WREG members today will paraphrase the same message. From an actual example still on Facebook:
The Facebook page is called "love your race" and carries the message: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for our children". Facebook didn't allow the word "white" in the title of this page, therefore it's "our children" instead of "white children" but it comes to the same point 14words."
In this above instance, the WREG member is still able to operate on Facebook by simply changing one word in the phrase, and changing nothing in the message of hate.
WREG members that operate on Facebook will use issues to identify and recruit like-minded persons on the internet. One way they “groom” youths and others on the internet is by using racist bait which is also a surrogate measure of racist extremism. The holocaust denial syndrome is typical of this pattern. Many of the more polished neo-nazi extremists use this tactic. They focus on promoting the idea that the holocaust is just a myth.
There are a variety of white supremacy groups on Facebook, such as the Aryan Rebels who use the logo "Preserving the White Aryan Race" on their Facebook page. It basically gives a website referral service to visitors, allowing people to go from Facebook to an external racist link. You can find "88/14 White Power" as a Facebook page, it uses the picture image of the Stormfront Celtic Cross.
The World Church of the Creator is on Facebook as "Church of the Creator".
Sometimes the WREG member will invert a common racist expression such as "white pride", and list it in face book as "Pride White", but as in this actual example in Facebook, the page provides a picture of the common racist "White Pride World Wide" symbol, the Stormfront Celtic Cross. This is a symbol of hate and racial bigotry. There is also a lot of activity in Facebook under the category "national socialist", the long name for "neo-Nazi".
4. Other Extremist Organizations Using Facebook
Using a more toned down language in the name and title of the Facebook page, a large number of right wing extremist/white supremacist organizations exist on Facebook by using the language that they are offering a page about "white rights". Some of these are clearly racist jokes that insult not only the general public but especially the Facebook company. Consider the case of the Facebook page called "White Americans Have Rights, Too!", it lists an email address of “SS@berlin.com”, obviously referring to Hitler's "SS", so the office of "German Eagle, Inc", is also not just false information, it is designed again to hammer home the symbolism of neo-nazis.
The Facebook page "White History, White Rights" has a message from the founder of the Facebook open group that he "created this group to spread knowledge of your white heritage and your rights that have been taken from you because of the Zionist pigs who run our government."
When Facebook provides free internet service space to gangs, extremists, white racists, etc, it is facilitating the organizational effectiveness of said groups by giving them the publicity, the opportunity to proselytize, and the ability to connect with other like-minded persons worldwide.
5. A Plethora of Street Gangs Carry Out Electronic Gang Warfare Using Facebook
Basically, whatever gang can have its own website on Myspace or some other free social internet service provider, can also be found on Facebook. With common gangs like Sur 13 or Surenos, just search for "Sur 13", and you will see Facebook pages such as "Sur Side 13 South Side 13" which has an extensive gang blog where you will find entries such as “norputos” and “norcacas” as gang rivalry status threats against Norteno gang members, basically the same kind of verbal insults that get people killed on the streets in California are being used in an electronically stored form on the internet via Facebook. Or use the search term "Sur X3", and you will see other another insult to the internet community in the Facebook "Sur X3 Temple St. X3", the "Temple Street Gang", which justifies having a Facebook page because it is a community organization. A street gang is not what prosocial people anywhere in the world consider a community organization. A street gang is an anti-social organization that infests some communities.
Finding Latin King gang chapters on Facebook is easy. Just use their mantra as the search term "Amor de Rey" and you can find "\\^^5^^//Amor De Rey\\^^5^^//~Folk Killa~", which is explicitly a gang website and further issues death threats to rival gangs even in the very title of the Facebook page "folk killer = kill any member of any of the different folks gangs (GD's, BD's, MLD's, etc)". This Facebook page also contains the death threats "GDK, SDK, MLDK, SGDK, BDK" which translates in gang subcultural argot to "Gangster Disciple Killer, Satan's Disciple Killer, Maniac Latin Disciple Killer, Spanish Gangster Disciple Killer, Black Disciple Killer". Basically, the website is issuing a lethal "put down" to rival gangs using Facebook to distribute this message on the world wide web. But if you wanted to report this problem to Facebook, you would have to assert and declare using the language from Facebook that it is a "credible threat of violence". By setting the standard so high using the language of “credible threat of violence”, Facebook is basically using the same level of proof you would need to file a criminal complaint against an individual for threatening death or great bodily harm. In other words, why do we have to have to meet the criteria of "credible".
In the Facebook company workplace if the same language were used by a disgruntled employee against other employees or perhaps management, would the company need to establish that it was "credible" before firing the person issuing such a threat, or would the company have a policy of zero tolerance for such behavior in its effort to reduce and prevent workplace violence?
Why are we surprised to find a folks gang that would then issue threat to rivals such as the Latin Kings? To the extent that Facebook and other social media allows gangs to operate on the internet, these ISP's are also encouraging ongoing gang conflict. If you use the search term "Six poppin" you will find the Facebook page "folk six poppin five droppin". "Six poppin, five droppin" is a common gang threat used by Folks gang members (GD's, BD's, MLD's, etc) to threaten their rivals such as the Latin Kings. Folks use a six pointed star, so they "ride under the 6" is the terminology; and thus, People gangs like the Latin Kings, Black P. Stones, etc "ride under the 5" or use a five pointed star. The category for this page in Facebook was "Just for Fun - Totally Random", similar to the random gang violence on some of the meaner streets of America’s inner cities.
The Tiny Rascal Gang (TRG) is an Asian gang. You can find a photo of a male torso displaying the TRG symbol tattoo on the stomach while the person makes a hand sign, just search for "Tiny Rascal". You can find another Asian gang, the Tongan Crips, just use "Tongan Crip" as the search term and you will see "Tongan Cripz Friends" Facebook page, it is a massive blog of pictures from other crips on Facebook such as "Crippin Niggarachi". The advantage for gang investigators in using Facebook, is that these sites continue to exist over a long period of time, because it is hard for citizens to lodge a complaint about the gang menace on Facebook, thus it is harder to deactivate these gang websites on Facebook.
One of Chicago’s largest white street gangs, the Simon City Royal’s are on Facebook. They are not hiding, they do not need to try and use the anonymity of their gang code style of representation. Just as the Gangster Disciples give the code of "74" to represent the 7th letter G and the 4th letter D (74 = GD), the SCR's use the numeric code "19-3-18" to represent their gang. They are listed as a community organization on Facebook. The SCR's are a part of the Folks gang alliance, they ride under the six pointed star.
Gangs like the Grape Street Watts are on Facebook, under "Grape Street Watts Gang". They offer a rap with a lot of violent lyrics: "all dem haters got nothin on grape, we scrape ya nape, rape ya like muddafuggin apes, take your bapes, bust ya body 'til it loses its shape....". Is that a "credible threat of violence" or is it a common street gang making gang representations on the internet through Facebook? Is any gang representation using names, symbols, expressions, subcultural argot, numeric codes, slogans ---- a threat of violence? Yes it is. At the very core of gang life is violent conflict. Does it rise to being an imminent threat where the first viewer needs to call 911? No, probably not. But gangs and security threat groups and hate groups do not need to be on social media, they are not contributing anything, they take away the civility of social life, they are universally regarded therefore as "deviant" "criminal" or "anti-social" by the very fact that they are gangs.
A lot of different gangs use cool expressions like "I'll be a GD until the world blows up" to express the high level of commitment they have to the gang. So using "till the world blow" as a search term gives us the large Facebook organization page entitled "7-4-14 GD 7-4 Till The World Blow G.D.N”. Here 7-4-14 = GDN (Gangster Disciple Nation). This Facebook page, with 164 members, is an true insult to Facebook management and the religious community, because this violent street gang is listed on Facebook as a "religious organization". So when an at-risk child joins the GD gang over the internet, he can truthfully tell his mother "I didn't join a gang, according to the information posted on Facebook, I joined a religious organization". The GD's are one of the largest gangs in America, and they can be found all over the internet generally, and there are numerous GD pages on Facebook (just use "GD 74" as a search term, again they are not hiding).
The Insane Vice Lords (IVL aka Insanes) are known best for being cop killers. They are one of several different factions of "Vice Lords". Other Vice Lord gangs include: Four Corner Hustlers, Conservative Vice Lords, Unknown Vice Lords, Traveler Vice Lords, Undertaker Vice Lords, Spanish Vice Lords, etc. The Insanes use the numeric code "9-22-12" to represent their gang affiliation, so using this as a search term on Facebook yields several different IVL gang Facebook pages. One of these is the "Insane Vice Lord 9-22-12" Facebook page, it features authentic gang symbols (the pyramid with 21 bricks in it), the initials "IVL", the crescent moon and five pointed star to symbolize their Islamic identity as Muslims.
One gang trainer at the NGCRC told this author that the Facebook gang pages are one of the biggest sources of gang intelligence, "I use it to get No Knock search warrants when they show guns and drugs, also puts the photos in a file to connect them". In otherwords, there is some advantage to gang investigators in having a "laissez faire" policy about gangs on Facebook. Because if Facebook had a true zero-tolerance policy, there would not be such a bountiful number of gang websites for investigators to monitor. It really comes down to weighing the overall social policy advantages and disadvantages here, what is more important: preventing at-risk kids from joining a gang perhaps through the internet websites on Facebook, or is it more important to be able to shoot fish in a barrel.
It is hard to deny that there is a benefit - - - from the perspective of law enforcement - - - of easy gang intelligence for gang prosecution, using Facebook as an open source, where the gang presence on Facebook provides so many gangs and gang members that from a police perspective of making arrests and convictions, it is like shooting fish in a barrel it is so easy some times. And the benefit of this "hands off" doctrine in the Facebook company policy also means less work, no one has to respond to public demands to “deactivate” the gang websites, no staff need to be hired to monitor gang and extremist activity, etc. The "hands-off" doctrine also communicates a more inclusive even avant guarde policy by allowing not just deviants, but hardcore violent criminal gangs to enjoy the benefits of social media for anti-social purposes.
But what about the costs? The costs of the “laissez faire” policy means that gangs are having a field day intimidating other citizens, recruiting new kids to their gang, spreading their gang beliefs and values, corrupting the entire idea of an "internet community" by the very presence of a menacing violent force abusing the social media, and using Facebook categories such as "community organization" or "religious organization" as the camouflage of an outrageous deceit. The hands-off doctrine has another cost, it undermines the efforts of most all school systems, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, in the zero tolerance approach to gangs were are not supposed to give safe harbor to gangs, but under the hands-of doctrine the internet becomes a safe haven for gangs and threat groups.
The policy whereby an internet service provider (ISP) passively allows gangs and threat groups spoils the concept of creating a worldwide web community by spreading hate and violence. Internet service providers, especially those in the social media, need to make it easier to police and report gang sites and get them deactivated, using stronger sanctions. There is a need for ISP’s to have better written standards and user agreements that explicitly prohibit gang and extremist threat group activity. An inspiration for change in this direction could potentially come from liability lawsuits in routine cases where gang members and extremists commit crimes involving death or great bodily harm. If the same gang or gang members are ever linked to having the same message of hate and violence being spread by an ISP like Facebook, then could a creative liability arise under the theory that a lack of coherent policy against gangs and threat groups is in itself negligent because everyone knows that gangs and hate groups want the free attention that they can get on the internet or anywhere else.
George W. Knox, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the National Gang Crime Research Center.
Telephone (708) 258-9111
Visit the main page for the NGCRC at www.ngcrc.com.