Desmond Upton Patton is a Public Interest Technologist who is a pioneer in the use of social media and artificial intelligence in the study of gun violence and coined the term Internet Banging.  

Dr. Patton is the founding Director of the SAFElab and Associate Professor of Social Work, Sociology and Data Science at Columbia University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) and 2017-2018 Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. He is a Presidential Leadership Scholar and Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School. His worked is featured in the A&E show: Secret Life of a Gang Girl: The Untold Story.

Dr. Patton studies the ways in which gang involved youth conceptualize threats on social media, and the extent to which social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence. In partnership with the Data Science Institute, he is developing an online tool for detecting aggression in social media posts. Dr. Patton’s research on “internet banging” has been featured in the New York Times,Chicago TribuneUSA Today, NPRBoston Magazine, ABC News, and Vice. It was cited in an Amici Curae Brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States, which examined the interpretation of threats on social media.


Ph.D., Social Service Administration, University of Chicago - Chicago

M.S.W., Social Work, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

B.A., Anthropology & Political Science, University of North Carolina - Greensboro