Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London Rioters Use Mobile and Social Media to Spread Violence and Anarchy

If you win, you're a rebel fighting against injustice.  If you lose, you're a looter, anarchist and/or criminal. The Egyptian protesters wanted to change their country for the better.  And those kids on London streets?  To those on the streets of England at night, this is what I have to say to you (I made sure to not say "the UK"):  you guys are criminals and opportunists looking to use an unfortunate event for your own nefarious gains.

There  is one connection I like to make between the Arab Spring and what's going on in London.  And that is the use of social media and mobile tech to spur action.  But that is where the similarities end.  The Egyptians used social media like Facebook and Twitter and mobile tech to exact political change in hopes of building a better future for their country.  That was what also happened in Libya and neighboring Tunisia.  

However, according to Wireless Week, the use of mobile tech and social media in London is nothing more than gangs looking to assert its power and use the opportunity for theft and destruction of public properties.  They directed one another to areas where they can cause problems and loot stores for goods.  It was nothing about trying to bring about social, political, or economic changes like what happened (is happening) in North Africa but selfish and twisted individuals forming a mob to profit themselves.

Blackberries are very popular among the looters and rioters as they can send messages to each other relatively easily.  RIM has indicated it will work with authorities to track down those instigating the violence.  

This Wireless Week post is a must read for everyone looking to understand the impact of social media and mobile tech.  It also excellently pointed out how the same technology used by the London criminals to create mayhem are also being used in positive manners: helping the affected community connect, spreading news and updates, and how they can help each other out.  

This is a very important lesson for authorities and I'm sure social anthropologists will be pouring over the events to see just how social networks and mobile are changing society, in both good and bad ways. 

Note:  The article is a reprint from the AP.

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