‘#IT’S Dangerous’: The Online World of Drug Dealers, Rappers and the Street Code


As the digital divide has narrowed, the internet and social media have become more accessible to disadvantaged populations, including drug dealers, gang members and street hustlers. These individuals increasingly publicize their activities and associations via social media networks. Little is known, however, about the dangers criminal actors face in using social media, and how they manage those risks. Based on interview data and ethnographic observation of criminally-involved men in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, we argue that the men both reproduce and reinforce many of the dangers of life on the urban streets, while fostering new strategies for managing those risks through an ongoing process of online impression management. In the process, the code of the street goes virtual; dis-embedded from its originating physical location, it circulates on new media platforms, and occasionally becomes re-embedded onto those same streets, but with different inflexions and implications.

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