After a week of rioting across the UK (Images of Riots 1,Images of Riots 2) the attention has now turned to the technology that has been both by the rioters themselves and by the good people who have helped to clean up the streets following the nights of devastation. The significance of technology in promoting the riots is highlighted by the fact that many people are referring to riots as the "Blackberry Riots".
It appears that many rioters were using social networking tools to promote the disturbances. The use of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger have all been cited as mechanisms that have initially aided the rioting on the streets but also promote the riots, which initially started in London, to other areas of the country. Interestingly a large amount of focus has been attributed to the use of the BlackBerry Messenger service which is a closed network. Being a closed network made it very difficult for police to gain access to the messages being sent which could have been useful in combating the violence, destruction and looting. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called for a clampdown on social media including the idea of suspending services such as Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger during times of unrest. I'm personally not convinced this is the best way to go, simply banning these tools will not stop people communicating via other means.
However, social media isn't always used for wrongdoings. Following a night of rioting a Twitter account was setup (@Riotcleanup) which at last count had over 85,000 followers. This bought communities together by getting people to pickup their brooms and help clean the devastation caused the night before. The use of social media in this way has bought communities together with a common cause of not letting the rioters win.
The rioting has also inadvertently allowed the Government to test out their newly launched e-petitions website when a petition was setup asking for convicted London rioters to lose all of their benefits. In order for a petition to be debated in the House of Commons it needs over 100,000 signatures. Today the petition has over 140,000.