Twitter and Its Role In The London Riots
The weekend long riots which have been taking place in Tottenham, London, have been made worse by the use of social media by the locals, reports, police and even Members of Parliament have said. A very brief back story for those of you who may be less aware, Thursday 4th August, a man, Mark Duggan, was shot dead by police in a raid. What started off as a peaceful and law abiding vigil for him turned into mass hysteria, riots and looting with hundreds of arrests and mass amounts of damage inflicted over London.
The argument is, that social media was used intentionally, and unintentionally, to spread inaccurate or completely fabricated tales to the online community. People were Tweeting and Facebooking stories and events "as they happened" whether they were known to be true or not. They were even Tweeting just to cause a stir and make things seem worse than they were. Or to make others believe that the riots were a good thing. They were even looking to recruit new rioters and chaos.
The problem with social media, is that it is freely and easily available to the public, and people reading these updates may have been taking them at face value and being inspired to join the riots. Whether they agreed with the cause or not. Or, at the very least, these networks offered a portal for gossip, lies and rumours to be spread and cause problems.
What's worse, is that people were using these social networks not only to encourage riots, but even to belittle and laugh at the events. A quick look over the profiles and hashtag searches revelaled some worrying tweets of people using Twitter and social media to add fuel to the already raging flames. For example, one tweet read:
"Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who's with me? #ANARCHY".
This tweet was then followed by:
Hang on, that last tweet should've read 'Curling up on the sofa with an Avengers DVD and my missus, who's with me?' What a klutz I am!"
This sort of tweeting is arguably harmless, but it can be seen as a childish, rude and inappropriate use of social media when it's seen to be playing a prominent role in a volatile situation. Belittling a situation where thousands of people have taken to the streets, burnt down public buildings and even family homes, is completely unhelpful and disgusting behavior. Don't forget, this whole event started because of a death by shooting. A little respect for the people who have been innocent victims and families of those involved in these events would not go a miss.
Did Any Good Come from Social Network Trending on the Topic?
Social media was even used by the rioters to upload images of themselves acting against the law and even looting! Maybe this is one good thing that came from social media's role in these events. That police have a way of being able to find who's been acting out and taking part in criminal offenses. After all, it's pretty easy if the criminals have photographed themselves in the act and then put it online!
Counter arguments by social media experts have argued that networking in this sense and in these situations can be difficult and is used primarily more "for show." This is because young people tend to use social networks the most and it's young people who are the most easily influenced by what they see, read and learn from others. As the events progress, it seems that the Twitter influence was smaller than first anticipated. Although many people were tweeting about supporting and joining the riots, it appears that was mainly for show. Younger people were taking a "trend" and running with it to join in the excitement and feel part of something rather than using the tool to recruit new rioting masses,
They might not join the actual event, but they might talk about it or use the same hashtag which makes it sound like there is a lot more volume."
The question is, Is this appropriate use of social media when a city is in such turmoil and the youth are using the internet to follow the news and partake? I suppose it depends on who's reading it and their own sense of character, i.e., how easily influenced they can be.
One thing that can't be disputed, is that Social Media is in the present, it is "Now." It's the immediate feelings and thoughts of people. It is the news, as it's current and informative and it only takes one awe-inspiring, hard hitting or attention-grabbing tweet to go viral. This is why the use of Social Media should come with a level of social responsibility. That's something worth keeping in mind. You never know who's reading it and how it will go down, especially if it reaches the masses.
Who Wrote This Article
I'm Nikki and I work as part of MarketMeSuite the social media marketing dashboard. And big news... we're now free! Please check it out and be sure to let me know what you think.
~Sources mentioned in this article- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14442203~
~Image source -http://www.flickr.com/photos/beaconradio~
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