Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger have taken a lot of blame for the riots in London and also in Manchester. The question is who is to blame, these hugely popular communication sites, or the users themselves? It is typical human behaviour to just shift the blame on to someone else. This has been applied to social networks and I believe that it is unfair to make that judgement without deeply looking into the matter.
The Riots that are taking place in the UK this August are a terrible thing. What started out as a peaceful protest for the death of Mark Duggan has spiralled deeply out of control. What is happening is not a protest, it is just opportunistic violence. Now it is safe to say that the majority of these rioters have mobile devices and are well connected to their friends through not only Facebook, Twitter and BBM, but also through simple text messaging services and, of course, phone calls. This high level of connectivity means that rioters can organise themselves to avoid the police thus continuing their rioting activities.
Now as we all know, there are certain levels of privacy within these networks. BBM in fact is one of the most private forms of communication as BBM is encrypted due to its original uses of business communication. In the past few years BlackBerrys have become very popular with the younger population and BBM is one of the major ways in which teenagers communicate with each other, hence why a lot of conversations are pinged back and forth. In this case, BBM’s extensive privacy is a huge disadvantage for police as they cannot monetiz what is happening and have no way of preparing themselves. They’re literally in the dark on this one. Unless they can come to an agreement with the service provider to open up the encrypted messages to assist their investigations)
Not All Doom and Gloom
In the defence of these services, networks like Twitter have contributed to astonishing events, and have even saved lives. Donnie Wahlberg found a kidney for one of his fans via Twitter – without Twitter a life would have been lost. In addition to that, James Karl Buck was imprisoned in Egypt for unjust reasons; he used Twitter to inform his family, friends and authorities. He was then released from Egypt and regained his freedom. There are more examples available on the CBSNews website.
Taking these amazing acts into consideration, Twitter and other social networks have done astonishing things. Although the real question is, is it the social networking site itself, or the users? There is no yes or no answer to this one I am afraid. If there were no Twitter for example, the fan searching for a liver would have died. Alternatively, if Donnie didn’t post anything regarding the fan’s liver, then he would have died also. It is clear that none of these miracles would be possible without both social media, and users working together to pull off these extraordinary acts.
Not only in miracles but Twitter has been used to start the riot clean up hash tag, gathering the members of the community up to clean their city up and begin to recover from the riot. This also takes the strain off the local emergency services, who are struggling to cope with controlling the extreme behaviour, never mind the aftermath. There is actually more information regarding cleaning up the riots than partaking in them on Twitter and I think that definitely needs to be taken into account. In addition these sites are improving morale between the communities, which is a positive way to use social media technology. Social media can act as a platform for people who want to cause problems but are also an easy way for opponents to the violence to get in touch and start making a difference
How society is developing
Society is clearly fusing itself with the internet in such a way that the majority of some ones questions can be answered online. It has been a gradual process but the internet and people are becoming an object. As technology develops, so does our involvement with it. This will result in better access to all kinds of information, but technology will not be limited in the sense of how much it can develop. The sky is the limit and we can make anything possible.
Back to the Riots
So having explained how our society is developing with technology, it is understandable how these acts of anarchy have happened. As previously stated, it is not just the acts of the users but the networking sites have had an unconscious part in it too. Yes it is fair to say that these means of communication make it virtually impossible for the police to keep up, on the other hand social media sites have been more than happy in the past to provide needed information to stop crimes in the past, so I imagine the police will receive support in this case also.
It needs to be remembered that these social media sites are only a means of communication, they do not interact with the users any more than an update here or there, or an account ban for example, these sites are just connections between masses of users. It is not just to blame the service provider – blame those who are misusing the service.