By Chris Lee
"Riots and looting that spread across some cities in England during August 2011 were aided in their effectiveness by social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger, according to many observers.
These self-same media were also beneficial to those seeking to understand in real time what was occurring in their area, although much was inevitably misinformation. The whole role of social media in the organisation of the UK riots has opened the debate on social media, its implications for law enforcement and, of course, how that evidence can be used in court. In Warrington, near Manchester, two youths were jailed for four years each for setting up a Facebook page which it is alleged incited people to start a riot that never materialised.
"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organised via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill," said UK Prime Minister, David Cameron (as reported in the Guardian).
A force for good?
The same challenge faced the mayor of US city Cleveland, when its City Council passed a resolution criminalising the use of social networks to encourage others to commit crimes. Mayor Frank Jackson vetoed the bill, arguing that it was “unconstitutional” to, in effect, ban conversations.
For James Kirkham, managing director of digital strategy agency Holler, Twitter has once again proven that it is now the pre-eminent news source in the UK. But its role is more observational than participatory or inciting.
“Twitter is a red herring for those keen to understand the role of social media in all of this,” he told NMK. “For those partaking it plays far less of a role than those observing and curating. It has assumed a position as the unquestionable number one channel for observation, comment and the spreading of the news, but is yet to act as any sort of catalyst for the criminals hell bent on causing all the aggregation.”..."