Gangs use social media to show off
Gang members have been tech-savvy. Some post photos of members covered in tattoos to attract attention. Others send private messages on social media platforms to lure school kids.
Gangs are using social media to recruit young members. These at-risk youths revealed how they were recruited during an annual Pulau Ubin camp organised by Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Secret Societies Branch last week (11 Mar).
Some said a friend would send them a message on Facebook, asking if they wanted to join a gang. Others were approached during a football game.
Showing off through Facebook
A 2014 study also revealed that gang members would show off their gang identities by adding a common name before or after their personal Facebook names, or by adding the secret code, logo or gang name in their profile information.
Another study discusses how gangs use social media to “gain face” by posting photos and status updates about their exploits in Singapore. Here’s what a 17-year-old at-risk youth who was in a high security rehab said about gang members using social media to “gain face”.
Interviewer: But have you ever seen anyone posting on Facebook for example about crimes they had committed?
Youth: A lot ah. Say like… [they show how they have] the samurai sword. Sometimes the rotitoh. Rotitoh are Malay type of word for one type of parang (machete). Rotitoh… a lot [of them have].
Interviewer: Oh these are all illegal weapons. How do they get them?
Youth: All gang members [have] a lot ah. Gang members [have] a lot… So then they take
pictures holding these [weapons].
Interviewer: So when you see your Facebook friends having pictures like this do you ever comment
or say anything?
Youth: No, I just see like they ‘‘step power’’ (demonstrate their power), like they like to show off, then I don’t ‘‘Like,’’ just ignore.
Interviewer: Oh you ignore. So you don’t put any post there.
Youth: Never post.
Interviewer: But do you see their [Facebook] friends posting any comments about them when they post pictures like that?
Youth: Yeah like they ‘‘woogi’’ ah, how to say ah, they praise them. ‘‘Wah like you power [powerful] ah!’’ like that like that like that. Praise them ah!
In the conversation above, the youth was talking about a gang member who posted photos of his illegal weapons to gain face.
Then there are others who use Facebook and social media to mobilise fights. As another 17-year-old explains:
Interviewer: Just now you were saying your friend was going to be in a fight and called you for help. Do you ever see on your Facebook people organizing fights?
Youth: They will call you come down. You will [have to] give face.
Interviewer: So they will put it on the status updates?
Youth: Ah (yes).
Interviewer: Then they will say come and meet us at West Coast or wherever.
Youth: Something like that.
Interviewer: And usually what is the response?
Youth: We’ll say okay. Most of the people will say okay.
Not agreeing to join these fights would mean alienation from the group or even retaliation.
Monitored by authorities
But as guest speaker Azmi Abdul Rahman at the recent Pulau Ubin camp explained, having an online presence also makes it easier for them to get caught. As a former gang member, Azmi urged the 35 teens at the campsite to think, “Is it worth it?”.
Social media, while can be seen by fellow friends and gang members, is also monitored by the authorities and rival gang members.
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