London’s Burning, Social Media is the Ember

London is burning, again. In the last couple days, rioters have joined forces, upset by the death of Mark Duggan, through the means of social media. Recently, social media has been central to uprising, such as those in the Arab world. It makes sense, since you have the power to reach millions in just seconds! So the organization of protests via social media is nothing new, but unlike other protests, these efforts have proven to be entirely destructive in nature. Rioters are breaking into businesses, looting, fighting back, and setting fire to cars and buildings.

It also seems that this riot chose a different medium to get the message out. In other protests, Facebook and Twitter have been the main sources of distributing messages, however, this riot seemed to be orchestrated mostly through the more underground system of Blackberry’s BBM messaging. It has been said that Blackberry is a cheaper alternative to smartphones, and have been heavily marketed to black youth in London – the main demographic participating in these riots. Blackberry is now in a bad position. They try to help police, but are threatened by the rioters.

As these riots continue, there is another group of people harnessing social media’s power for the greater good of London. Groups are forming over the internet to organize cleanup of the riot aftermath. On Twitter, @riotcleanup and #riotcleanup are the two main sources for disseminating the time and location of the next cleanup. Facebook has had similar group pages pop up, like London Cleanup (http://www.facebook.com/londoncleanup).

Within this London riot, we have seen social media and technology work both ways. It has created destruction and chaos, but it has also allowed London to come together, stop the riots, and cleanup the messes made by the riots.

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