Information Exchange between Smugglers and Migrants: An Analysis of Online Interactions in Facebook Groups
59 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2017 Last revised: 18 Oct 2017
Date Written: 2017
Human smuggling is an imperfect and inconsistent service due to its illicit nature, which means that problems can arise for all those involved; for smugglers the problem is how to cultivate and communicate their reputation as a bona fide smuggler, and for migrants it is just difficult to know whom to trust. The following study is an exploration of how Arabic-speaking smugglers and migrants interact with each other using the medium of Facebook. Taking a transactional approach as the theoretical framework, this study analyses the concerns raised in this online discourse, the information shared, and the ways in which both sides deal with the challenges they face. The diverse content across the 10 Facebook groups in the sample indicate firstly that smugglers who are concerned about their reputation of trustworthiness use the technological facilities of Facebook to help signal this to prospective clients, such as images, screenshots, and videos. Also posting in these groups, migrants pose many kinds of questions to the online community as a way of informing themselves. Other input from migrants is to give feedback on smugglers, which is positive or negative depending on their experience, as part of a mechanism driven by information sharers. The content of these groups further indicates that the smuggling market, at least online, is competitive and there are cases of specialisation in terms of the services provided.
Keywords: irregular border crossings, online discourse, Facebook, smugglers, migration
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