"They are Children: How Posts on Social Media Lead to Gang Violence" - Desmond Patton

While social media often portrays a curated version of people’s lives, it can also help tell a more complete story of misunderstood communities. Desmond Patton’s work as a social worker and researcher led him to create Safe Lab, which brings together youth voices with social workers and computer scientists to solve problems of gang violence. Patton encourages his audience to discover and tell more complete stories about black and latino youth, in order to see them for who they really are. 

Dr. Desmond Upton Patton is an Assistant Professor at the Columbia School of Social Work and a Faculty Affiliate of the Social Intervention Group (SIG) and the Data Science Institute (DSI). His research utilizes qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine how and why gang violence, trauma, grief, and identity are expressed on social media and the real-world impact they have on well-being for low-income youth of color. His current research projects examine: 1. How gang involved youth conceptualize threats on social media. 2. The extent to which social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence. 3. Developing a natural language processing tool for detecting aggression and grief in social media posts in partnership with the Data Science Institute at Columbia University. Dr. Patton’s research on Internet Banging has been discussed nationally on media outlets to include the "New York Times," the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today," NPR, "Boston Magazine," ABC News and many more. Dr. Patton also provides expert witness testimony using social media during trials. He was recently cited in an Amici Curae Brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in the Elonis vs. United States case which examined the issues of interpreting threats on social media.