How Emoji Can Kill: As Gangs Move Online, Social Media Fuels Violence

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Chicago:  Instead of tagging graffiti, some rival gang members now upload video of themselves chanting slurs in enemy territory. Taunts and fights that once played out over time on the street are these days hurled instantaneously on Twitter and Instagram. The online aggression can quickly translate into outbreaks of real violence – teens killing each other over emoji and virtually relayed gang signs.

Social media has profoundly changed gang activity in the United States, according to a new report by a Chicago nonprofit. Of particular concern, researchers say, is how social media often appears to amplify and speed up the cycle of aggression and violence.

“You don’t have to call someone out anymore. You don’t even have to send a text message. It’s all on Facebook Live,” said Andrew Henning, general counsel at the Chicago Crime Commission, a nonprofit funded by local companies to research ways to reduce the city’s violence. “Social media has become this rapid…

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