|Social media + social unrest =?|
Credit: Tom Curtis
To begin with, the looting was organized and managed through the covert social network - BlackBerry Messenger. The simultaneity of the riots in cities all over England was achieved through Twitter and Facebook communications as well. For instance, police were prepared for trouble in Birmingham after campaigns on Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger and Twitter warned of violence and instigated others to get involved.
As a response to the dangerous situation, a few enterprising internet users decided to collate location information on where the riots took place and plotted them on the map. Their objective was warning citizens to avoid riot areas and stay safe. The London Riots Map for example is collating user tweets that have the #londonriots hashtag as well as a mention of a UK postcode.
In the aftermath of the disturbances, communities countrywide were left dealing with the destruction left behind by thugs. Cleanup plans were quickly put in place and individuals were mobilized via Twitter by using #cleanup. People whose livelihoods were burned and looted were joined by those willing to help and restore neighbourhoods to a sense of normality.
Later in the week, after fires were put out and streets were cleaned of the riot debris, the police had the difficult task of identifying the culprits and bringing them to justice. Social media was going to play a key role yet again, as UK Metropolitan Police opened up their stream on photo storage site Flickr and uploaded CCTV images of suspected criminals and alleged looters, calling on the public to provide them with information about individuals in the photos.
In unprecedented circumstances, the latest social unrest was planned and organized via social media. But just as Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger were the vehicles of choice for looters’ messages and communications, they have also played in important role in bringing communities together for the cleanup. At the moment, as police investigations are on their way, social media will be used yet again in order to identify and prosecute the offenders. The recent uprisings mark a new era in social communications and re-establish the media outlets' penetration in every aspect of our existence.
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