Men detained and wounded by the "justicieros"

A self-defense group in Mexico has turned to social media to boast about its members' efforts to take justice into their own hands, a reminder of the complex role social media plays in Latin America's security landscape.

A video from the "Justicieros de Irapuato," as the group is known on their Facebook page, recently surfaced showing the group advertising themselves as citizens who "take matters [of justice] into their own hands," Proceso reported.

In the video, the self-proclaimed "justicieros," or justice seekers, have detained and cut the ears of two young men thought to be thieves. The suspected thieves are holding a sign that says, "This is what's going to happen to all the rapist and extortionist rats."

The justicieros deny being hitmen for any organized crime group and claim to be simple working people, according to Proceso.

The justicieros go on to call for monetary support from the community members of Irapuato, a town in Mexico's central state of Guanajuato, claiming that the duties they perform for the community are "very expensive."

So far the video has been viewed more than 53,000 times and the group's Facebook page has garnered more than 4,300 likes.

Ignacio Pérez Ruiz, a prosecutor in Irapuato, told Proceso that an investigation has been launched in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office and federal authorities to find out who belongs to the group and the specific activities in which they are involved.

InSight Crime Analysis

Social media has assumed an important role for vigilante groups in Mexico looking to promote their work and seek out new recruits. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow these groups to quickly and inexpensively broadcast their message to huge numbers of people, as evidenced by the fact that the video posted by Irapuato's justicieros garnered more than 53,000 views in just a day.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mexico Vigilantes

Sometimes, however, criminal groups use social media for more than just self-promotion. For example, InSight Crime reported in 2012 that Mexican drug cartels were using social media sites to spy on recruits and obtain information on their family members to be used if they tried to desert. And in two gang-related murders allegedly involving the MS13 in the US states of Virginia and Maryland earlier this year, authorities say that the victims were lured through social media.

In response to the increasing use of social media by crime groups, authorities have also attempted to use these platforms to carry out their duties. For example, authorities in Mexico have used photos posted on social media to track the movements and activities of drug lords and their families. And in Chicago, after the city's high homicide rate garnered national attention in 2012, the city implemented a network analysis tool where authorities mapped the relationships of the city's 14,000 most active gang members in order to rank how likely those individuals were to be involved in a homicide as a victim or offender.

Investigations

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