Social media shows its other side as tens of thousands join #Riotclean-up campaign

Clarence Road clear up in HackneyThere are two faces to social networks emerging in the few days since the riots in London began.

While sections of the media continue to point the blame at Twitter for fuelling the riots, with The Sun calling for Twitter rioters to be “nailed”, there is a much stronger trend that has emerged over night.

In opposition to looters using social networks community groups have taken back the initiative as the hashtag #riotcleanup becomes the UK’s number one Twitter trend as people started to come together to organise. Already more than 67,000 have joined social networking groups on Twitter and Facebook. It is already showing the signs of becoming a movement.

The Metropolitan Police are also using the web to publish pictures of rioters as are bloggers calling on people to identify those responsible.

UPDATE – A brilliant picture from Clapham below showing the power of the #Riotcleanup (see pic below).

It is also being reported that the Police in Glasgow have detained a 16 year old in Glasgow on suspicion of attempting to incite a riot by a message on Facebook.

Ebay has said it will cooperate fully with the investigating authorities to identify and remove any listings which are linked to criminal activity

As the London riots entered their third night last night, and spread to Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol, Twitter was continuing to be in the firing line again as the media heaped blame on social networks. Last night it was the front page splash in the Evening Standard and today the Sun continues the theme it and the Daily Mail began on Sunday night and Monday morning attacking as both papers blamed Twitter, and social networks more generally, for fuelling London’s spiralling riots.

The Telegraph added with its headline: Birmingham hit by riots as internet campaign encourages violence. As if the internet itself were involved. The phone network is surely next with the printing press hot on the heels of that. The Standard was also pointing blame at the Playstation 3. It was saying that “Children aged between 10 and 14, said to have been inspired by video game Grand Theft Auto“.

This morning the Sun was quoting Police chiefs who last night vowed to hunt down the thugs who used “social media to organise and encourage the sickening scenes of violence”.

Police publish pictures online

Scotland Yard’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said police were looking into Twitter and Blackberry’s instant messaging service.

“That investigation is already under way. Social media and other methods have been used to organise these levels of greed and criminality. The ripping apart of people’s livelihoods and businesses is disgusting. If they come out and tell people to do that, we will lock them up and make sure we get some speedy justice for Londoners.”

Kavanagh also told BBC News today that the Met needed “communities on Met publishes pictures of looterstwitter and blackberry to come forward and tell us intelligence”.

The Met has also released the first images of suspected rioters and is asking for help in identifying them.

The Met said that Flickr would host the photos so that the public have as many opportunities as possible to help identify those who committed violent and criminal acts on London’s streets.

If anyone recognises individuals in the photographs or has any information about the violence and disorder that has occurred they should contact the Major Investigation Team on 020 8345 4142.

Yesterday afternoon Blackberry issued a statement on Twitter to say it was working with the authorities after use of its Blackberry Messenger service was apparently being used by looters to organise.

It is now being reported that police have called in forensic computer experts to trace the accounts of yobs who use services such as Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger.

Bloggers publish pictures of looters

That is already happening in another counter movement to the use of the apparent use of social networks by thugs. Yesterday, we saw the now widely seen picture of the guy showing off his loot. Another was widely shared of a girl who was allegedly arrested after looting Currys where she worked.

That trend is continuing with pictures of others posted. Someone also put up a Tumblr blog where pictures of looters were being added. Another website has also sprung up asking people to identify looters.

There is another Tumblr site called Photoshop looter where images of looters have been altered to show them carry out of place objects like big fish or a dolls house.

The move echoed that of Vancouver where rioters were named and shamed on Facebook after the riots in that city in June.

The big Twitter Riot Clean-up

#Riotcleanup in Clapham - power of social media

#Riotcleanup in Clapham - power of social media

However, most encouragingly a campaign is being organised on Twitter called Riot clean-up that is the number one trend in the UK and worldwide as people organise in response to the violent looting.

There are already more than 58,000 following @riotcleanup and numbers are swelling very quickly.

A website has been set up for Riot Clean-up, but most of the activity is taking place on Twitter as thousands of tweets are sent organising activity across London and bringing people together to clean-up. This morning people were out in Hackney.

It is also posting pictures of coming together such as the one here and others here.

There is another nice shot here of a couple bringing out tea for the hard pressed police in Camden Town.

High profile Twitter celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg have also been involved retweeting messages.

One of the organisers, @riotcleanup, wrote: “If they do this again. We do this again tomorrow. Solidarity for our communities. Show them they cannot win.”

Another tweeter called thebluewalrus wrote: “Update on Clapham #riotcleanup – we can start work in about an hour. Come join us. @riotcleanup”.

While @riotcleanup started a second hashtag: “Please use hashtag #riotwombles if you are out cleaning to keep up to date with locations. Thank you”.

Twitter users have also set up a Riot Wombles Twibbon so that people can show their support.

Channel 4 News was also reporting that overnight in London’s Dalston people from the Turkish community came out onto the streets to warn off the rioters.  These efforts were also being praised on social networking sites like Twitter.

The clean-up on On Facebook- numbers swell fast

The use of social media for positive organising in response to the riots is also happening on Facebook with a number of groups being launched. The biggest so far is the Post riot clean-up: let’s help London, which already had around 5,000 members at 10 am and 7,000 by mid-day.

There are lots of Facebook groups too including the Reclaim London group, which has more than a thousand members.

  • Chris Norton

    I think it’s great that people have teamed together to report the people that are doing this. This has shown the two sides to social media the good use and the bad. Hopefully, the good users will help to catch some of these criminals.

  • Filip

    I feel sorry for the criminals, too. Who on earth would be glad to fill their shoes? They are desperate.

  • James Kirkham

    Great piece. That social media can be in any sense to blame for the troubles by mainstream media is comically wide of the mark. Twitter doesn’t make someone steal, and Facebook won’t make me burn out a car. However, instant messaging means members of like minded groups are able to quickly assemble in places, react to their environments swiftly (even without mobile reception), and re-assemble in a place where they’re able to do most damage away from the eyes of the law.

    The way these groups can leverage social media can be broken down into 3 distinct phases; There will be those who organise the rioting and who use the platform as a place to notify others. Using social media enables their friends to join, download their location and signify their intent through positive endorsement.

    The next level is during the riots themselves, where much quicker tactical decisions are made in the seemingly endless circular game of cat and mouse with police. This is where mobile internet plays a bigger role, allowing groups to re-assemble in locations pinpointed through Google Maps, with perfect directions handed on a plate to those trying to locate even the most unknown side street.

    Finally, let’s not forgot one of the biggest draws of social media for an audience as young as this is sheer vanity. Trophy pictures of kids next to burning cars are juxtaposed with idiotic individuals who tweeted a picture of themselves next to a haul of stolen swag. The latter was sent round yesterday afternoon by the mocking middle classes expected an imminent arrest for someone so stupid as to publish their own picture into a medium built around sharing.

    Twitter is a red herring for those keen to understand the role of social media in all of this however. For those partaking it plays far less of a role than those observing and curating. It has assumed a position as the unquestionable number one channel for observation, comment and the spreading of the news, but is yet to act as any sort of catalyst for the criminals hell bent on causing all the aggregation.

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