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The mafia turns social media influencer to reinforce its brand

by Miles Johnson, Financial Times

To the casual observer it was just another Facebook page dispensing inspirational messages — and the occasional threat — to its 18,000 followers. In fact “Honour and Dignity”, was a social media branding exercise for an Italian mafia boss whose frequent posts came to an abrupt end after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Before his incarceration in 2017, Vincenzo Torcasio, a boss of a clan of the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful mafia, spent five years building up a sizeable online following. His digital offering provided an unlikely mix of kitsch images of roses and hearts, quotes from the writer Paulo Coelho, and occasional nuggets of grizzled gangster wisdom. In other posts Mr Torcasio, from the southern Italian city of Lamezia Terme in Calabria, attacked the Italian state’s tough anti-mafia prison rules. Pictures of large sums of money were accompanied by the words: “when this is involved, you can’t trust anyone”. The mafia has always been in the business of brand building, and here the medium has changed, but the aims have not. Federico Varese, University of Oxford For mafia experts, Mr Torcasio’s decision to become a social media influencer is an example of how some Italian mafia bosses, who generally maintain a low public profile to avoid attention from the authorities, have embraced a digital strategy to grow their criminal brands.

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