Recently in London, riots broke out over the questionable conditions surrounding the death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan at the hands of London police, engulfing houses and cars in flames and pissed off youths.
But the most alarming aspect hasn’t been the ongoing struggles from London authorities to try and curb the riots, but rather social media’s role in helping to facilitate them. Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and Twitter have been targeted as the culprits.
And now the riots have displayed how something as typically harmless as a text message can become a loaded gun, capable of mobilizing hundreds, if not thousands of individuals for protests and, in some cases, even riots.
One especially colorful BBM post read, ““Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) f*** the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O Dead the ends and colour war for now so if you see a brother… SALUT! if you see a fed… SHOOT!”
But those are just words, right? For London police authorities, no, not necessarily. They feel that those sorts of BBM messages have played a huge part in helping to further incite the upset youths, and they have reached out to Blackberry, asking for their cooperation. Blackberry has pledged to help the authorities in any way that they can, even in spite of their blog being hacked by TeaMp0isoN_, who threatened to release the personal information of employees if they continued to cooperate with London police.
Still, all is not grim on the social media front. Others have pointed to it as the most effective route in helping stem the tide of riots that have engulfed large portions of the city, and help get it up and running at full capacity again.
Flickr is one such route, with London police releasing photos from the riots onto the social picture sharing platform, asking for users to identify individuals that were suspected of looting or, even worse, violence against others.
Others, in an ironic twist, have turned to Twitter, utilizing the #riotcleanup hashtag in an effort to gather potential volunteers to better support the cleanup. In that case, it helped to organize hundreds of London citizens, all contributing their time and hard work in order to clean up portions of the city.
Still, these riots will stand as a monumental moment in history for their role in highlighting both the constructive and destructive capabilities of social media.
Fortunately, the iconic city of London will most likely survive to live another day. Tweets will be sent, Blackberry’s will be confiscated and hundreds if not thousands of people will be arrested.
But as for the future of social media? I don’t think it will change much either. People that believe that these riots will trigger an Orwellian-like future in America are delusional. It most likely won’t. It will just reaffirm the fact that social media is extremely powerful beyond its primary function of connecting us on the web. Today, riots.
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester NY Social Media company specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.