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Many people believe that Social media services were instrumental in organizing the seemingly ubiquitous riots that garnered attention, but recent news have proven that most of the communication took place via the Blackberry BBM service. The riots began shortly after the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan on August 4.
Twitter became one of the best tools used to monitor the crisis occurring in London. According to Experian Hitwise, a web analytic company, 3.4 million people from the U.K. accessed Twitterâ€™s homepage on August 8.
Twitter is said to have played an active role in the horrific London events that took place on August 6. People believed that Twitterâ€™s service was used by organizers in planning this riot but latest news shows that Blackberrys were the main form of communication between rioters, most likely due to the free BBM service provided when purchasing the phone.
This particular phone is also inexpensive, compared to other smart phones available in the market. According to the Daily Mail, a vast majority of those arrested are under the age of 20, the youngest being 11 years old.
In a recent study done by Ofcom, it was found that Blackberrys are popular among adolescents and teens. The reason for this is because of the free BBM service that offers a free alternative to SMS. It is also a secure and less traceable alternative as opposed to tweeting and texting, which is why rioters used BBM to communicate.
Messages sent via Blackberry informed the participants of the plans in the area. For example, one message referred to Oxford Circus, a busy intersection of London where numerous businesses were attacked. It read, â€śeveryone from all sides of London… meet up, smash up shops and get some free stuff,â€ť adding: â€śif you see a fed [police] … SHOOT! â€ś
The Guardian has acquired information of Government involvement in tracking down riot organizers. They have sought out help from security service MI5 and the electronic interception centre Government Communications Headquarters.
But not all of social media is being used for sinister purposes.
The recent commotion in London has inspired other social media users to take to Facebook and Twitter in order to clean up the streets. The website, Riotcleanup.co.uk, among others, has sprung up as part of a massive effort to combat the aftermath of the rioting.
The grassroots organizations are coming together in order to restore order. Such initiatives are proof that technologically enabled youth can do as much good, if not more, than the harm of others.
The inspiration of the page came from following the #londonriot hashtag. The creator noticed that #riotcleanup was becoming a popular trend on Twitter and decided to create a page dedicated to reshaping the destruction that took place in London. Today a little more than 82 thousand people are following this page. The riot clean up page had a positive effect, motivating people to volunteer, and to contribute in the effort to clean up the mess left behind.
Twitter, Facebook and RIM will meet on August 25 with Home secretary Theresa May and the police, in order to discuss the possible prevention of rioters from accessing social media services.
By hughepaul (Flickr: Police push rioters towards… my house.) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons