Italy's highest-profile nemesis of organized crime networks, prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, discusses the mob's use of social networks, and how TikTok allows criminal organizations to advertise their lifestyle to impressionable viewers. Sound familiar?
NAPLES — "TikTok is the mob's most used social media platform. It is where the criminal world can showcase its wealth through golden watches and luxury cars, attracting ignorant young people who only want money, and are willing to put aside any ethics or morality."
These are the words of Nicola Gratteri, top anti-mafia prosecutor, now based in the southern city of Naples.
In an interview with La 7 television network, Gratteri analyzed the evolution of the mob's communication networks, which now leverage the influence of social media on the new generations to warp their perceptions of wealth and success.
Keeping up with new trends is not new for criminals. Gratteri explains: "the mafia has always behaved like a business, even a hundred years ago. For example, when mafia figures made substantial offerings to the church saint, in front of everyone, they were essentially engaging in advertising. It was a demonstration of power, similar to the acquisition, in the 1960s, of football coaches and teams, which then began climbing the competitive rankings."
Blurred out screenshot of a TikTok post in which a member of the Italian mafia points his gun at the phone's camera
A network of crime and drugs
The expert issues a warning, lamenting the lack of investment in technology in Italy.
"Today, the mafia is more up-to-date than we are; there are mob syndicates capable of collaborating with foreign hackers to build new profiles on Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram, and thus construct a communication system that eludes official controls. In recent decades, Italy has not been investing in technology, but beware: the future of the mafias lies in web and dark web platforms.'"
Moreover, according to Gratteri, social media significantly contribute to the spread of drugs because "nowadays, drugs also circulate on social media, becoming a problem that transcends states and politics."
The future of the mafias lies in web and dark web platforms.
The prosecutor emphasizes the need to build a strong regulatory system to contain the damage.
"There is a frightening increase in the consumption of synthetic drugs because they are inexpensive, like Fentanyl, which has devastating effects and is killing thousands of young people in the United States. They call it the 'zombie drug' because it causes a loss of all cognitive faculties. Or Bolivia's pink cocaine in Bolivia, odorless and extremely difficult for dogs to detect. Even China is having problems controlling the very high drug consumption among young people.'"