A police chief in the US has claimed that gang members are using social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube to recruit junior members.

San Mateo police chief Susan Manheimer told a US TV documentary aired on CBS 5 that gang members were using the sites to encourage loyalty by distributing free songs and mobile phone wallpapers to children as young as 12. The police chief also warned that spats that began on the internet could spill over into real life.

“We'll see something start on the internet, and actually turn into an assault or a gang fight that actually results out of internet profiling," she said.

Online gang violence

Of course, this is hardly a new development. In the UK there has been increasing concern over glorification of gang culture on the internet, especially since 11-year-old Rhys Jones was killed by a stray bullet believed to have been aimed at a teenage gang member in Liverpool last year. Rhys Jones was not a member of any gang himself, but an entirely innocent party who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Following his death it emerged that the two main rival gangs where he lived had been placing videos on YouTube glorifying their activities in a blaze of handguns, pitbulls, stolen cars and motorbikes. A national outcry ensued as MPs and newspapers called for YouTube to ban all gang-related videos. YouTube responded by claiming a ban on “graphic violence” was already in place.

However, a quick scan of YouTube in the TechRadar office revealed not only that sinister videos glorifying individual gangs are still prevalent on the site, but that there are also numerous videos showing graphic violence including fatal shootings.