London Fights Back With Social Media

Citizens organize to battle crime and clean up

Last night, unrest in London continued. A massive police presence in the city was still unable to keep rioters and looters at bay. Trouble is also spreading, with rioting reported in Manchester, Liverpool, and other English cities. In the wake of violence, Londoners have begun to use social media tools to fight back against those terrorizing their city’s streets.

Looters shrouded in balaclavas and dark hoodie sweatshirts have been smashing windows and taking away as much as they can haul. Some Londoners are hoping to catch those breaking the law using makeshift community photo websites and customized Google Maps. One resident created "Catch A Looter," a simple website for posting photos of people in the act of stealing from shops. The site’s creator has now had to stop posting photos due to the riots’ spread outside of London and a lack of capacity to sort through the massive volume of photos being received. Another group created a customized Google Map showing where unrest was occurring.

London’s own Metropolitan Police launched a Flickr page yesterday titled "London Disorder – Operation Withern" with the express purpose of "investigating the serious disorder and violence that has been affecting parts of London." Thus far, the page includes images captured from CCTV cameras, which police are hoping might lead to culprits’ identification.

As London’s government officials, police, and communities try to curb the ongoing rioting, others have begun to look forward. A group has formed on Twitter called "Riot Clean Up," where Londoners are virtually gathering to organize community cleanups. The feed has more than 86,000 followers and has been posting almost nonstop since its creation yesterday.