Groups and fan pages on Facebook can be a great way to show your support for a person or a cause, but they can also breed a great deal of controversy, depending on what’s being supported. Notorious Italian mob bosses Salvatore “Toto” Riina and Bernardo Provenzano are two recognized figures that are breeding outrage and controversy as a result of fan pages that have been created on Facebook for the two criminals, according to The New York Times.
Provenzano and Riina are allegedly responsible for criminal activities in Italy, including the ordering of the assassination of Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone in 1992. Riina is in fact serving 12 life sentences and has been in prison since 1993. Yet he is still gaining a good deal of popularity through a Facebook fan page, which now has well over 2,000 members, and Provenzano’s fan page even suggests that he should be made a saint.
Some attribute such growing popularity of Riina’s fan page to young people’s fascination with the mob and the culture of organized crime. Taking a look at Facebook’s demographic stats in Italy, there’s been a significant amount of growth in recent months, with members growing by the hundreds of thousands in the past two weeks alone.
As the chart above illustrates, Italy has had tremendous growth over the past month. Just in the past 30 days, the country has experienced a 50 percent increase in users. In a country where Facebook is clearly becoming a larger component of the culture, fan pages for mobster are clearly a dent in their overall image. While demographic stats do not indicate a strong correlation between increasing activity and increasing mob support, the data does indicate how popular Facebook is becoming in Italy and how its many features are being utilized by Facebook members.
Structured groups within a social network such as Facebook can prove to be great ways in which users can keep in touch with one another, and even influence mainstream culture as a result of the effect it’s had in the virtual realm. Perhaps the silver lining in this all is the fact that those outraged at the fact that users are quickly joining a Facebook fan page to show their support for Riina and Provenzano can readily express their disdain with a Facebook group of their own.