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Social Media’s Role in the London Riots


I was having an interesting discussion with a colleague today following a headline I saw that read, “Was Social Media Responsible For The London Riots?”

At first I thought this was a knee-jerk reaction and a pathetic attempt to find a scapegoat for the appalling scenes witnessed during the ongoing London riots. In the 80s there were murders in the US and the media blamed Robocop or violent films. In the 90s, massacres were supposedly caused by teenagers playing video games like Grand Theft Auto. Here we are in 2011 and as London and other parts of the UK go up in flames, we are blaming the likes of twitter and Facebook for our downfall.


That said, the main difference between today and the 1980s riots were tools for communication. The internet for many, was not an option. The same was true of mobile phones. Fast forward to today and to a hyper connected existence where people tweet thousands of followers their mundane daily routines. Millions of people ‘Like’ facebook pages that are about nothing more than a quote from a footballer.

If Cowell & His Circus of Wannabe Freaks want a number 1, they simply start a facebook page, tell enough people to go buy a single and guess what…the single goes to number 1! The same is true of the antithesis of this. Rage Against The Machine re-released Killing In The Name, one fan started an anti-XFactor facebook page and this got Rage to number 1.

So in theory, a combination of Blackberry Messenger, GPS Tracking Devices, twitter & facebook could, in a worst scenario, be used to gather a large number of people together to wreak havoc on areas.

What are your thoughts on this?
Have you been affected?
Do you think social media was a catalyst for the riots?
What could be done to counter this?

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About David Lowe

Founder / editor at Origin of Cool (www.originofcool.com) and World Sport Bloopers (http://www.worldsportbloopers.com). Talk to me about building online communities, social media, online advertising and cool stuff. Love ping pong!

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