Social Media Played a Supporting Role in the London Riots, Nothing More.

The London riots have caused the British government to consider banning social media during these events. Once again we have another government making the same mistakes.

The Egyptian Revolution taught us what internet and social media censorship does, nothing. It actually might have contributed to intensifying the protests. The communications are not the cause of protests and riots. People will use whatever means available to communicate, from the most elementary to the most technical. The problem here was a weak police force and mob rule.

There are reports now that the rioters and looters were not actually just young, poor, and unemployed people. There were plenty of old and even middle to upper class rioters. These were people who easily hijacked a peaceful protest and turned it into a destructive circus act, not because they were angry or starving, simply because they wanted to cause a riot and loot stores. Is it really difficult to believe that people would just riot because they want to riot and loot?

Yet, there is another important reason for all of this. People will go as far as they are allowed to and that is exactly what happened. The large majority of rioters and looters met little to no resistance, thus, it was easy to go from a few broken windows to burning down homes and shops. While social media might have helped organize a few thugs it was their success in looting and burning that influenced others to join in.

These same effects were seen during the Arab Spring. The first group to march out into the streets was the young and tech-savvy. Once they were able to organize, promote, and demonstrate successfully other groups who did not use the internet or social media joined in.

Social media played a supporting role in these events, but so did many other factors that need to be considered more seriously. The British government needs to stop assigning blame on social media and focus on their own failures and the realities on the streets which started before anyone even had a mobile phone.

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5 Comments on “Social Media Played a Supporting Role in the London Riots, Nothing More.”

  1. olivermarcus says:

    I think that this is a very interesting. And I think you are correct that the government should stop blaming social media. It is a methodology rather than a catalyst.
    But I think it is just as important for you to remember the good that has also come out of the riots through social media.
    I talk about it on my blog http://www.becominganexpert.wordpress.com

  2. Fred says:

    Good post Miguel.
    The government is clearly overreacting. I bet any company or organisation would initially have high on their list the option to ban social media. I don’t think it will end up happening.

    I live in Chiswick and last Wednesday was going to be our turn for “riot-day”. Fortunately nothing happened.

    Twitter helped the entire neighborhood stay 100% up-to-date. Just by following one link and faster than the police, BBC or any other means.

    • M. Garcia says:

      Thank you very much Fred.
      I’m glad you included how social media was used for good in your area, and especially how it can be more reliable than many other channels of communication.
      Let me know if you need anything promoted at TechHub.

  3. I would go far as to say that social medial played a positive role in the riots. The speed and coordination of the cleanup was monumtental – could this occur without readily available low cost transfer of real time information? My blog post has more here http://www.matthewslight.com/2011/08/09/social-media-and-the-london-riots/

    M


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