Social Media and the London riots…

Over the last 3 days, in August, 2011, British cities have burnt, been plundered, widespread looting and murder itself having taken place.

Social media has been critical in this. Never before have people been able to organise and assemble with such speed and ease. More critically, and interestingly, has been the role of “closed” social networks – the Blackberry Messenger application. These messages are not open to outside inspection, and effectively provide a secure medium of communication between the rioters. Something meant for the privacy and business efficiency of its users (hosting it’s own servers, Blackberry can argue it is less subject to the whims of external comms system failures). Instead it has proved as secure as the Police’s radio network itself.

Meanwhile, the twittersphere, and Facebook are overwhelmed with comment, mostly shocked, from people outraged at the theft of their city. Yet serious discussion is to the fore. Critical sociological justification on the one side – and more ruthless “hang ’em and flog ’em” on the other. We lie somewhere in the middle. Rights are countered – always – with responsibilities. Expectation is tempered by the need for participation. Here is an example of an exchange we saw on Facebook….Good will out.

“Some very interesting comments overnight – Richard, I think most governments around the world would, if cornered, be pretty envious of Singapore’s fiscal position: large tax take and specific, investment focused, spending, with a strong history of government involvement in society…

@friend1 – these kids are British. They may be second generation (typically third), but they have no stake in society, and see little to be invested in. They are wrong, but it is we who put them there – we need to lead on showing them that they have a future, for, better or worse, they represent a part of all our futures.

@friend2, I disagree with your view on Capitalism, but, as you know, I respect it. By destroying small, local businesses, these young people are most seriously damaging their prospects of ever securing the stake that they demand. It is the small business that is the main employer and creator of new jobs – not the large corporation…

‎@friend3, I fear you may be right, but again, there are many women out there who struggle to do right by their children, and for whom their shame at the knowledge of their child’s involvement in this mayhem, is no less keenly felt because they are single parents.

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