Stopping online fights from turning violent

The Citizens Crime Commission is spearheading a project called E-Responder.

- We live in a day and age where people use social media as a major form of communication. It is a time where more and more virtual arguments or disagreements are leading to real-world violence, especially among young adults and teenagers.

Richard Aborn is the president of the Citizens Crime Commission, an independent, nonpartisan organization that works to reduce crime and improve the criminal justice system in New York City. Since 2014 in New York, more than 200 shootings and more than 20 murders originated online, he said.

The organization is spearheading a project called E-Responder. The program's goal is to work with outreach programs and other community organizations to prevent or interrupt virtual tension or online fights before they spill over.

"Our E-Responder program allows them to identify risky behavior, intervene online and take care of the ever-growing threatening situation that is beginning to emerge either between two rival gang members or between groups of gang members," Aborn said.

We met up with Vanessa Johnson, a mentor at GMACC in Brooklyn, an organization that implements the E-Responder program, especially for at-risk youth.

"We did a pilot on monitoring social media -- whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram -- we kind of see what they do on a day to day basis," she said.

If something looks suspicious or alarming, GMACC addresses it, Johnson said. The approach has been beneficial at reducing the number of fights that go from the Internet to the street, she said.

"There is someone watching, there is someone who does care, and we're trying to show them a different outlet in responding to negativity," she said.

Citizens Crime Commissions plans to continue expanding the E-Responder program locally. The commission hopes to expand internationally as well.

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