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#manchesterriot or #riotcleanup - The Two Sides to Social Media.

The author

Jason Sanderson

Senior Technical SEO Strategist

Over recent years, social media has expanded exponentially and is obviously a trend that is here to stay for the foreseeable future. There are more than 750 million active accounts on Facebook and 200 million tweets a day from Twitter! With current main stream social tools hitting astronomical user figures, it is unsurprising to see the affects these means of communication can have on the population of most countries; keeping up to date with current global affairs is effortless and an almost instantaneous action that allows the world to be more connected than ever before.

However, with the recent situations arising in the UK these services have come under attack. They have been blamed for the escalation and sheer size of the devastating riots around the southern areas of Britain. Many main stream newspapers have repeatedly accused Twitter and the Blackberry messaging service as being a focal area for the majority of rioters to quickly gather information, and also be encouraged to join in with the mayhem. The BBC quoted Tory MP Nick de Bois stating that they have been "on an organised day using the social media, phoning their friends, in a concerted effort to just move trouble up and capitalise on those awful events at the weekend." Many have demanded that these services should be under a much tighter control and even suspended until after the rioting has subsided. Although these social media services may have provided a useful resource for the rioters to contact one another on a vast scale, can they really be solely blamed for the volume of attacks? Quite simply, no. Riots of similar size and damage have occurred many times in the past throughout the world, notably way before the ideas for these social platforms even began to be conceived. A great example, which had a very similar trigger to this riot, was on 5 October 1985 when the Broadwater Riots occurred in Tottenham. A time when the idea of a personal computer or even a hand held device which could communicate with even a single person was an extreme rarity, and laughable at. To further the defence of the social media tools, companies such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter have greatly aided the fight against the rioters. Citizens of the UK have set up multiple accounts or groups on Facebook and Twitter organising local areas into cleaning up after the devastation. This effort was met by a great response throughout the UK which would not have been possible without these platforms. Notably the largest of these groups using the Twitter hashtag #riotcleanup, naming themselves the “Broom Army,” successfully used Twitter to organise huge clean up operations in the affected areas. The British police force has also taken advantage of such services using Tumblr as a recognisable location to host images of suspected criminals. This idea has dramatically sped up the identification of these individuals and aided the police’s resistance to the ongoing riots. Although these digital platforms are a powerful form of communication to a mass population, they are only tools. The users who control these tools to their advantage are ultimately to blame. That user’s morals will control how the service is used, whether that is in a responsible manner or not. What are you views on the control social media appears to have. Do the advantages out weight the issues? @JM_Sanderson