You are here: Foswiki>Dmi Web>WinterSchool2014>Winter2014Project6 (21 Jan 2014, MatthieuFoucher)Edit Attach
Chicago Gang Violence and Social Media

Team Members

Paula Carmicino, Matthieu Foucher, Lani Shadduck


What Goes Around Comes Around

Sociologists and anthropologists have long talked about murder as a “gift,” something to be “given” with the full expectation that it will be reciprocated.

- John Buntin

Chi-Town, The Windy City, Second City, Chicagoland – these are just some of the names that Chicago, America's third largest city, has acquired over the years. They are reflective of a city that has stood in the shadows of the other two American metropolises, New York City and Los Angeles for much of its existence. The city has had a long history of turmoil and violence stemming from the prohibition era days when Al Capone and his gang of Chicago Typewriter-toting bootleggers ran the streets. Today, the history of violence remains an all too common reality – shootings, assault and robberies are a daily occurance. In 2012, Chicago officially surpassed New York City as the murder capital of the United States with 500 murders that year alone. This is due in large part to the heavy presence of gangs in Chicago (not coincidentally, Chicago is also the gang capital of the United States). According to a 2012 gang audit by the Chicago Police Department, there were over 600 gangs in Chicago with 70,000 members ( The Chicago gang landscape is based on territory, with gangs usually occupying blocks at a time, each street signifying another gang, another potential rivalry. A glimpse at a map of Chicago reveals massive sectors of gang territory sprinkled throughout the city. The city's South and West sides have particularly high percentages of gang activity with the neighborhoods of Englewood, Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, Chatham, South Shore and Roseland taking the brunt of the violence. Often, violence and conflictare fueled by rivalries based on location. Gang members themselves may not be aware of the origins of their feuds, rather they know that one simply exists. This is a phenomenon that reflects itself in a 'what goes around comes around' kind of attitude held by young adolescents who are brought from youth amidst this gang system. Gangs provide a structure, an agency for youths who live in impoverished and meager neighborhoods that lack proper infrastructure and support.

According to the article, Public Enemies: Social Media is Fueling Gang Wars in Chicago location is not always an appropriate gauge for gang violence. With the rise of social media outlets such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, gang rivalry has gone virtual. Instead of “hot spots,” there are “hot people” ( Take for example the feud between rival rappers Lil JoJo and Chief Keef. With Lil JoJo, affiliated with the gang Gangster Disciples and Chief Keef with the Black Disciples gang, a rivalry escalated quickly when Lil JoJo posted a music video of his so-called diss song “3hunna k”. The song was aimed directly at Chief Keef and his crew in response to Chief Keef's song “3hunna” and include the lyrics:

These niggas claim 300 but we bdk/bdk yeah bitch we bdk/We staking bitch's cuz you know we crack a tre/Crack a tre yeah bitch we crack a tre/Bdk bdk bdk these niggas claim 300 but we bdk...And this is not a diss song this is just a message

“Bdk” refers to Black Disciple Killas. On September 4, 2012 Lil JoJo then 18 years old was gunned down while riding on the back of a bicycle on South Princeton Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Hours before his death, he tweeted “Im on #069 Im Out Here.” Not long after the shooting occurred a tweet from Chief Keef's account was posted reading “Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.” Chief Keef claims his Twitter account was hacked at the time. Social media's role in the killing is telling. In 2013 alone, there were 5 rappers killed as part of gang rivalries. As fellow members post taunts, videos, and tweets back and forth on various social media channels, tensions mount. Violence occurs.What the Chicago Police Department has observed in its dealings with gangs and social media is the correlation between online gang activity and violent activity offline. Vitriol spewed online has led to rapid escalation of feuds and on occasion real life violence and as in the case of Lil JoJo's death. Currently, the department is using an approach known as network analysis to examine the links between gang affiliations, gang members, location and social media activity to try to predict when violence will occur on the streets. By studying “hot people” or the most active and well-known gang members, the Chicago police are attempting to take the temperature of gang violence and incitement of said violence ( They also consider important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries of previous shootings and deaths to analyze the tensions between gangs. In taking on this study, we wanted to address the issue of social media and gang activity. In what ways does violence find its expression online? This play between online and offline violence led us to further explore the dynamics of gang culture specifically in Chicago and how social media, in this case Facebook, plays a role in violence occurring on the street.

Click here to watch a short video that introduces some of the gang members featured in our study.


How does Facebook activity correlate to violent gang activity offline?


Composing a List

As mentioned, our research question was prompted by the recent WIRED article Public Enemies: Social Media Is Fueling Gang Wars in Chicago. The article references main figures and crews in the Chicago Gang scene, which we extracted and built upon by conducting further Google searches. By querying [Chief Keef, Lil Jojo, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples], we received search results of other articles mentioning this set of names together, and were then able to extract the names of supplementary gang members and gang cliques. This site, in particular, was helpful in that it explicitly named all Chicago gangs. In addition, we queried the mentioned names of several NGOs promoting peace in Chicago or Victim Voice groups discovered from the previous articles we found, and located this website,, which provided us with a comprehensive list of violence-related NGOs in Chicago. Our final composed list was as follows:

Gang Groups or Members NGO Monitors Victim Voice Solidarity
Chief Keef Youth Guidance Mothers Against Gangs
Lil Jo Jo Cure Violence Mothers Against Guns
Gangster Disciples Cease Fire Chicago Purpose Over Pain
Black Disciples Project Safe Neighborhoods Chicago’s Citizens for Change
Johnny Boy Da Prince The Guardian Angels Greater Roseland Community Committee
Don Darius UCAN  
Lil Jeff Build Chicago  
T.R.I.F.E. Chicago Area Project  
L’A Capone Chicago Safe Start  
3hunna Project Spitfire  
Tookaville CROSSwalk  
Latin Kings Enlace Chicago  
Yung Killa Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence  
Spanish Cobras    
Latin Kings    
Lil Reese    
Lil Durk    
Chicago Police Department Killers    
Four Corner Hustlers    
Boss Nick    
St. Lawrence Boys    
Lil Dre Day    
Ryda Gang    
Vice Lord    
Fig. 1 – A list of all extracted gang affiliations, NGOs and Victim Voice pages

Creating a Research Facebook Account and Network

In order to “like” the pages of these people and groups, we created a research facebook account in the vein of a male from Chicago, IL named Bix Didds. We proceeded to like the pages of the groups and people mentioned in figure 1., finding that some of them did not have a Facebook page, whereas some, like Chief Keef and Lil Jojo had over 30 or so pages dedicated to them. In these cases, we liked only the top three pages that had a substantial number of “followers” or seemed especially relevant, such as some RIP commemoration pages.

Linking Facebook Activity to On-Street Violence

To find a correlation between online Facebook activity and gang violence occurring in the streets of Chicago, we sought to find recent Chicago gang crime statistics. While we did find the number of murders committed in the year 2013 (expressed in weekly statistics), we were unable retrieve more detailed information, such as when these murders occurred, the names of those murdered, and if the crimes were gang-related or not. This information, however, could have been obtained through an information request process that would have taken several weeks to complete. Due to limited research time, we instead focused on finding murdered rappers associated with the two main crews – Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples – and ascertained if there were any correlation between Facebook activity on their pages before (3 weeks) or after (1 week) the day they were murdered. We found five rappers that fit our profile, only three of which had Facebook pages that we were able to locate: Lil Jojo, Johnny Boy Da Prince, and L’A Capone.

Quantitative approach : use of Netvizz

By using the application Netvizz, we extracted the data from our different pages.

In the first place, we obtained the 150 last posts from Lil Jojo’s main page and transformed them into a word cloud on the one hand, and use the comments analytics tool on the other. With this tool, we specified the queries “R.I.P.” (also spelled “RIP” or “R.I.P”), BDK and Keef.

Then, we focused on Johnny Boy Da Prince’s page, and extracted the data in order to run it into Gephi and obtain a graph mapping people’s reactions about the different posts.

Qualitative approach

In order to better understand the gangs’ culture and network, we also conducted a more qualitative approach, analysing the discourses and aesthetics of Facebook pages and groups.



As we could notice, it is very common for gang members to advertise their allegiance on Facebook profiles, be it in their nicknames (including references such as “Tooka” or “BDK” or their worplaces (“works at Tooka Ville”, “works at Lil Jojo BDK”). In the continuity of the Crips and Bloods wearing different bandanas to better identify one another, gang members in Chicago use social media to label themselves to belonging to one gang or supporting it. This very open publicity is quite surprising, some members going as far as carrying a gun in their profile pictures, and illustrates how social media is now a total part of Chicago’s gang culture.

Post-mortem recognition

By trying to identify pages related to murder victims and monitoring them, we wanted to see if, as on Twitter, a particular activity was surrounding the rappers’ deaths. In other terms, would there be clues that could allow us to predict someone’s murder? When searching for such pages or goups, we noticed that most of them were created after their deaths rather than before, used for a commemorative purpose rather than artistic.

Studying the cases of Lil Jojo and L’A Capone, it seems that most of the activity linked to them on Facebook is post-mortem. In the table below, we can notice that pages created after their deaths have more followers than pages created before.

# likes Premortem page Postmortem or commemorative page
Lil Jojo 55 26,352
L’A Capone 1,913 3,134
Page with the higher number of likes, premortem and postmortem

In addition, as the graph below illustrates, the number of fan pages created for Lil Jojo mostly increased after his death.

Facebook pages creation per month

On a total of 45 found Facebook pages mentioning the name “Lil Jojo”, 84 were created after the rapper’s death. In the case of L’A Capone, three out of the four pages were created after his death.

Another example is the case of Johnny Boy Da Prince, who died on January 9th 2013. As a rap artist, Johnny Boy Da Prince had an existing fan page before his death, transformed into a commemorative one afterwards. By having a closer look at the reactions via Netvizz, we observed that the four status updates creating the most reactions and appearing on the graph below were directly related to the rapper’s death or funeral.

Johnny Boy Da Prince's page 150 first comments analysis

Commemorative pages and spirit of vengeance

By studying commemorative pages, we observed that most of them were used not only to maintain one artist’s memory, but also to nourish a community spirit and, to some extent, a call for revenge. By looking at the “LIL JOJO” page counting the most likes, we noticed several posts that may be considered as more bellicose or accusative. As the word clouds below illustrates, “BDK” (for “Black Disciples Killers”) appears many times, and could be considered as a call for vengeance. Interestingly, the name of Chief Keef, is also quite common. This illustrates that, even if the murderer of Jojo hasn’t been clearly identified, many of his supporters blame the Keef for his death.

Word cloud from the “LIL JOJO” Facebook page, 150 first comments

Thanks to Netvizz and the comment analysis tool, we compared the evolution, in number of appearances, of the terms “RIP”, “BDK” and “Keef”. Interestingly, the terms “BDK”, which can be considered as more bellicose, sometimes surpasses the word “RIP”, which can be considered as more commemorative. By having a closer look at the peaks for the “BDK” mentions, we realized that they could all be related to posts that contain a more aggressive, revengeful spirit.

The following post is a great example, as it directly calls for murdering Lil Durk, a member of a rival gang.


While conducting our research, we encountered some limits that were difficult to bypass. In the first place, conducting such a research requires a deep understanding of gang’s networks and culture, a long time investigation. Even though we managed to have a good sense of the gangs’ codes and affiliation, current tools are not necessarily adapted to such research, due mostly to the use of slang. Another issue was the number of pages to monitor, as gang’s are not officially represented on Facebook but usually express themselves through subgroups, commemorative pages, Facebook walls. The lack of detailed homicide statistics was also an issue when trying to correlate our data to murder.

This research, on the other hand, made us optimistic about the potential use of social media monitoring to prevent or reduce street violence, as it appears that a lot of data regarding gangs is openly available there. By conducting a cross platform analysis mixing Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, one might potentially be able to anticipate some murders. If one could clearly identify the keywords correlated to violence and build a tool that would monitor the above mentioned platforms, one could then detect death threats.


Austen, Ben. "Public Enemies: Social Media Is Fueling Gang Wars in Chicago." Conde Nast Digital, 15 Sept. 0013. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <>

Buntin, John. "Justice and Public Safety." Social Media Transforms the Way Chicago Fights Gang Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2014.<>

"Crime Statistics." Crime Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. < >

Moser, Whet. "The Small Social Networks at the Heart of Chicago Violence."Politics City Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.

Warner, William, and Julia Hirschberg. "Detecting Hate Speech on the World Wide Web." LSM' 12 Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Language in Social Media (2012). ACM Digital
Topic revision: r13 - 21 Jan 2014, MatthieuFoucher
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Foswiki? Send feedback