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Anti-social e-tribes : e-gangs, cybercultures and control in online communities

Rogerson, Robert and Sadler, Sue and Karagiannidou, Eleni and Duncan, Sallyanne and Ruthven, Ian and Tagg, Stephen and McDiarmid, Alisdair (2013) Anti-social e-tribes : e-gangs, cybercultures and control in online communities. In: Cyberculture Now. Critical Issues (1). Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, pp. 55-67. ISBN 9781848881785

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Online ‘tribes’ offer opportunities for individuals to communicate interests and opportunities through networks with potential for exponential growth. Such tribal behaviour can be a powerful means of bringing people together, promoting and cementing cultural relationships - with great potential to alter existing power relations. But what happens when that behaviour is not so positive, when ‘tribes’ are perceived as ‘gangs,’ with the negative associations of menace and anti-social behaviour, and how should we respond to that? And what happens if and when such behaviour percolates from online groups into other offline contexts? The growth of online challenges to offline laws and social norms, including challenges to rights of privacy or freedom of speech, raise questions about whether online behaviour should be subject to greater control. The recent UK conviction and appeal judgement on two young men for using social network, Facebook, to encourage rioting, burglary and criminal damage raises some interesting questions about both how integrated online and offline social networks might be - to what extent do online behaviours actually transfer to offline behaviours? Responses to managing gang related and anti-social behaviour in our cities have been criticised in particular for unnecessarily criminalising behaviours and for restricting individual freedom. Looking at responses through the lens of anti-social behaviour, this chapter identifies three possible approaches to influencing online behaviour, focusing on what might be achieved by community members themselves, by external control, or through design and management of the online environment. It explores the capacity of these different stakeholders to address anti-social behaviour online and to harness the positive potential of e-tribes while avoiding the pitfalls of offline precedents.