Like many in London and across the rest of the country I have been watching TV, listening and reading conversations across twitter, facebook and several other social media channels with a combination of amazement, anger, frustration and disgust.
This has not just been about finding out about what is and has happened but how social media is being reported, reporting and supporting the negative and positive sentiment around these rioting events.
Listening to a report this morning (09/08/2011) on the events of last night (08/08/2011) the reporter from BBC News stated “social media is influencing the speed, style of writing” “opportunists are exploiting social media network sites to start riots” yet in the next sentence the comment is about the rioters using “Blackberry BBM” to support the “looting for trainers and mobile phones”. These comments and other articles are clearly confusing social media with mobile technology. “BlackBerry® Messenger an instant messaging app just for BlackBerry smartphone owners.”
It is not a form of “covert social media” My fear is that social media will be tarred with a brush resulting from the actions of a few individuals intent on looting and causing criminal damage. Considering the accusations of “social media being used to cause the riots” a simple search on twitter for #londonriots points to sentiments which are very much reflective of the fear, disgust and outrage across the country.
In the middle of all of this social media is being used in a very positive way via the usage of twitter accounts such as @riotcleanup which has utilised the inspirational #riotwombles hashtag to gather the people of London together to aid the clean up process. Social media is helping not causing the problem.
YouTube is being utilised to upload videos of events which I am sure with time will support rather than hinder the legal process. The last laugh will probably be against the rioters as each BBM account has a unique reference associated with the phone and in turn the owner. With Blackberry offering to help the police they are being proactive in response to the allegations (very positive from a social media perspective) and in turn are quickly reducing any negative sentiment around their product and brand .
I do not believe for a moment that twitter has not been used to spread negative comments (some of which I have seen but see no reason to publish). In the overall picture these are few and far between. My overall consensus is that over the coming days social media will be used as a communication channel to show our thoughts about what has happened but more importantly give a voice to the majority and show social media in a positive light.
As an addendum have a look at these blogs and news articles with offer a series of view around the usage of social media and the riots