Social Media, Vigilantism and Indigenous People in Australia
Biber, K. and Brown, M. (eds) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Crime, Media, and Popular Culture, Oxford University Press, New York. Published online Sep 2017, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190264079.013.109
31 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2018
Date Written: September 1, 2017
The pervasiveness and prominence of mass media is a key feature of contemporary societies. Nowhere is this more relevant than when we look at the ubiquity of social media. In recent years ‘anti-crime’ Facebook pages have appeared across all states and territories in Australia, and as our social spaces increasingly shift from the physical to the virtual realm, different forms of online ‘cyber’ vigilantism have emerged. This chapter explores the ways in which community-justice and vigilantism in Australia are exercised through social media in the wider context of the racialised criminalisation of Indigenous young people. We explore how new forms of media are used to produce and reproduce a racialised narrative of crime, which at the same time has the effect of legitimating violence against [young] Indigenous Australians. This chapter draws on a number of ‘anti-crime’ Facebook pages, and finds that the very presence of these sites legitimates the beliefs of its members, while at the same time providing details of potential targets, most of whom are young people. We contend that the views expressed on these sites mirror, in more prosaic language, sentiments that are expressed in sections of the old media and among a number of ultra-right politicians and groups. Further these sites do little to question the broader ideological and political frameworks that present crime and disorder divorced from structural and historical conditions. There is, then, an assumed social consensus around what is being presented on the Facebook sites: that overt racism and calls to vigilante violence are socially and politically acceptable. While in some cases there appears to be a direct link between the Facebook groups and incidents of violence, at a broader level it is the constant reinforcement of an environment of racist violence that is most troubling.
Keywords: social media, vigilantism, Indigenous, Australia, youth offending, racial criminalisation, racist violence
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