Desmond Patton

My commitment: Preventing gang violence using social media

We all know, from research and anecdotal evidence, how many hours and hours most youth spend on the Internet, sharing personal information on social media platforms about who they talk to, where they live, and what they’re doing. In neighborhoods like the West Side of Chicago, young people are living in violent contexts, where trauma and stress are everyday parts of their lives, so that’s what they talk about. They’re not talking online about violence only, but what they do discuss is real-world, and it has profound consequences for their offline interactions.

I'm interested in understanding the context around language and online postings that trigger offline violence—not just the 140 characters indicating aggression or grief, but sifting through many posts, images, and videos to understand why they are making these posts in the first place.

Our ultimate goal is to provide these data points to violence-prevention organizations across cities that struggle with gun violence. We could give them social media data in real time, so they can assess and potentially intervene.