"Free Mo Robinson": Citizen engagement in response to a crime event on social media

Simon Statham, Andrea Mayr

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The growth of digital culture has opened up new spaces of engagement where interactive users discuss social issues, including crime. Given crime’s ubiquity in popular culture, cultural criminologists argue that diverse emotional involvement with crime in popular cultural texts, such as social media, provides important insights into how citizens comprehend issues related to crime. Here, an analysis of emotion should be placed into the foreground (Hayward, K., and J. Young. 2004. “Cultural Criminology: Some Notes on the Script.” Theoretical Criminology 8 (3): 259–273). Taking this as a cue to explore these often neglected popular moral and emotional aspects of crime, this article focuses on constructions of popular crime discourses, using citizens’ responses to the Mo Robinson people smuggling case on Facebook as a case study. Applying multimodal critical discourse analysis and a framework for analysing evaluation, we reveal ideological themes through which participants judge crime, perpetrator and victims. Our analysis of the Free Mo Robinson Facebook page demonstrates that although social media has the potential to challenge and shift traditional narratives about crime, it can also perpetuate and amplify ideological narratives of crime control that fail to address the wider socio-political and structural contexts in which crime occurs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-382
JournalJournal of Social Semiotics
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 14 Jun 2021


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