Social Media Playing a Prominent Role in the U.K. Riots

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
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As with unrest in other parts of the world, social media is playing a role in the riots taking place in London and across other cities in the U.K.

Rioters posting pictures and tweets on Twitter, in some cases with looted goods, are being arrested.

And BlackBerry’s blog has been hacked after the company said it would help authorities in their investigations of the rioting. BlackBerry Messenger, the chat service for BlackBerry smartphones, is a popular way for teens to communicate (37 percent of teenagers in the U.K. have a BlackBerry, according to a story on Reuters) and messages are usually virtually untraceable.  The system has been used by protesters to organize.

“You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment,” Fox News quotes a post from a member of the hacker group TeaMp0isoN.

As discussed on today’s Morning Media Menu, social media is also being used for clean-up purposes. A Twitter page @RiotCleanup, a Facebook page, and the hashtag #londonriots are helping to direct those that want to help.

The media and shocked onlookers from around the world have struggled to understand what prompted the rioting, the worst the country has experienced in decades. While the shooting death of a young man, Mark Duggan, set it off, there are other contributing factors. Jezebel and Al Jazeera have both published essays (Jezebel’s is impassioned, based on the observations of someone living in London) focused on the perceived disregard of the government for the young, poor, and unemployed.