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23 August 2011

Social media and its role in the London riots rages on

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

This week may shed more light on how the government, and in turn the police, will manage social media in times of unrest. On Thursday, social network Facebook, microblogging service Twitter and Research in Motion (RIM)’s Blackberry are to meet the UK Home Office to discuss the riots in England.

Whichever way the government moves it’s going to have a major impact on the way social environments are managed, not just in times of civil unrest, but at anytime. Hopefully there will be an understanding that social media can have both a positive or negative impact, pretty much like any other communication tool, with responsibility squarely laid amongst providers, users and stakeholders.BBC Click riot images from video

Individuals and groups have been sharing information for a number of years and it has taken the recent rioting for certain quarters to become aware of how powerful this can be and the fallout that it can have for the wider community (good and bad).

We may never know what transpires at the meeting on Thursday, or indeed if all the aforementioned organisations will be in attendance, but if the powers that be are focused on three providers and not the wider issues that they are faced with, this may be an indication that they are not prepared to meet many more technology issues ahead.

We’ve all seen ingenuity rise above expectations, so if the clampdown on certain providers is the sole goal (and for them to be silenced at times of civil unrest), then we may see the migration of information sharing to other multiple providers. After all, the intention may be using what works, rather than what is socially popular in this instance to avoid monitoring.

Summer may nearly be over, but with the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the UK’s largest events set for this bank holiday weekend and not much public discussion around its policing (off or online) until today - in particular to social environments.  We could witness another outburst if already frayed relationships are pushed again to the limit. Lets hope that if there is any tension that they are dismissed with the amazing carnival atmosphere and all enjoy what could be a great bank holiday weekend.

If you missed BBC Click’s report on social media usage during the riots ‘How has technology affected the riots in England?’, you can watch it here and on the BBC iPlayer

With the British media now honing in on social media stories connecting to the riots, including sentencing for inciting rioting using social networks, some of what we saw were:

England riots: Two jailed for using Facebook to incite disorder
16 August 2011 Last updated at 19:57

Facebook flashplodder to appeal against 4-yr cooler stint
17th August 2011 11:57 GMT

Facebook 'inciters' appeal four year sentence
17 August 2011 Last updated at 17:29

Man jailed for Facebook incitement to riot to appeal
17 August 2011 Last updated at 18:45

Image credit: BBC Click

Categories: Technology, Social media, News

Tags: social media, social networks, microblogging, Blackberry, Blackberry messenger, BBM, RIM, Facebook, Twitter, London riots, police, Notting Hill Carnival

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