By Naomi Nix
Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Saturday a measure that allows stiffer penalties for people convicted of using social media to organize mob attacks.
Social media has made it easier for groups of people to orchestrate violence, including those related to gang activity and some recent problems along Chicago's Magnificent Mile, legislators said.
"As we know in recent months, we have had a serious problem with the use of social media to cause harm to people and property," said Quinn before signing the bill in Pioneer Court, just off Michigan Avenue. "We don't want anyone using social media to harm anyone."
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said police told him that there was an incident recently in which a young woman was shot by a rival gang member after she posted a picture on Facebook that revealed where she was at the time.
"That ought not be tolerated on Michigan Avenue and it ought not be tolerated on the South Side of Chicago," said Raoul, who sponsored the bill.
Under the law, which goes into effect immediately, judges have discretion to impose a more severe sentence. Previously, those convicted of using electronic communication to organize violent mob action could face one to three years in prison. The new law changes the potential prison time to three to six years.
The legislation targets people who organize criminal activities, though participants may be subject to other penalties.
Critics of the bill have argued that it would drive up prison costs and have little effect on violence.
The measure sailed through the Senate and House. It was sent to the governor Friday, winning praise from business groups who say the attacks can deter tourists and local shoppers in downtown Chicago.
"We want to (retain) safe places for people to come and shop and enjoy our city," said Tanya Triche, vice president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, who attended Saturday's signing.
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