Daily Archives: August 9, 2011

The London riots: Using social media as a force for good


An amazing, terrifying image of a woman jumping from a burning building in Croydon last night. Image credit: GSandhu

It’s hard to know what to write this morning. 

My Twitter stream is full of comments about last nights riots in London and truly terrifying images like the one above.  Last night, the news streams were vilifying social media, and especially BlackBerry for their BBM private messaging system which could have been used to organise further outbreaks. The Evening Standard blamed Twitter for the riots (thanks Tac for the photo).  The Guardian speculated that BlackBerry Messenger played a key role in the riots and the Telegraph talked about how messenger was used to plan two nights of looting. RIM offered to help the police ‘in any way we can’ but in the main social media was being vilified for spreading of information used to incite further unrest.  All seemed gloomy.  all seemed to point to the use of social media as a force to incite the masses.  Social media platforms were blamed for the rapid spread of riots.


This morning, the same social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are now being used for a completely different reason. 


London folk have organised a cleanup of areas affected by the riots.  Normal community spirited people.  The community cleanup program has a Wiki for the clean up, which is regularly updated with locations and times of cleanup.  Communities come together and respond to the the riots with #riotcleanup.  

Ordinary people with camera phones are uploading images of those involved in the riots.

They are uploading photos and videos onto Facebook pages like Catch a Looter.  The Catch a Looter Tumblr site is filling up with photos and videos of looters involved in raiding shops and businesses.  There are many Riot Clean up pages on Facebook showing great community spirit.

The Metropolitan police has uploaded photos of rioters to their flickr Stream and there are some Twitter accounts which have now been deleted appearing in the #nameandshame stream. The hashtag #riotcleanup is trending worldwide – with information flooding the stream that is too quick to read.

The community in London is using social media for good.

The same online social behaviour which was slammed last night for inciting riots, is now being praised for helping to restore balance and order. 

Real time information, images and videos are being uploaded to attempt to find those involved in the destruction last night.

Social media may have had a role to play in the riots – but it also has a greater role in the clean up and restoration of order afterwards. 

It has also a positive role in the identification of looters, and has helped the police do their jobs to identify the rioters and hopefully bring them to justice.



This Tweet from Mcsleazy seems to capture it all really.

*** for those of you reading this blog from outside of the UK, The Wombles are furry characters who keep the streets of London clean***

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.