You can’t blame social media for the riots

5 days after the first night of riots and looting, the MPs met to discuss the state of our society, and what can be done to deal with the recent acts of violence and destruction. 

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and BBM were used to orchestrate the gatherings. A flashmob of yobs, determined to create havoc and fear in the areas.  Now the government are looking into a social media crackdown. Seeing whether they can restrict access to prevent future unrest.

My response to this? I have never heard anything so ridiculous.

I live in Ealing, and was in my flat during the chaos on Monday night. WIth the BBC news on TV, I was hearing about the riots and looting in Clapham, but had no clue of what was happening in my local area. It was because of Twitter and Facebook that I learned of what was going on.  Youtube videos of the violence, twitpics of the carnage, all forms of social networks, which were later used in the media.

To blame social media, and consider restricting the use of it is laughable. Flickr has been used to post CCTV images of the looters. Tumblr accounts have been created to set up a “name and shame” of the individuals participating in the theft and destruction.

To restrict access to the social networks in this day and age is repressive. For a country such as the UK, such a step would be compared to the likes of China’s control over internet access, and UAE restriction of BBM.

I rely on social media for the latest information. Its a powerful tool for communication, for news, for sharing with others. It is engrained in our society, and it a way of bringing people together. Recent #riotcleanup tags on Twitter prove that.

The governments suggestion for these networks playing an assistive role in the riots cannot be denied, but it has played just as if not more of an important part in helping get news, finding the criminals, and gathering people together as a community. What the government needs to do is take a look at the underlying issues in our society.

What started off as a protest to a young black man’s shooting last Thursday, has escalated into widespread lashing out on Joe Public. Whether it is fueled by cuts in public sector, the inequality of rich and poor, racism, power, these are the issues that need to be addressed.

So please MPs, think about dealing with the social aspects here, not the social media. Restricting freedom of expression and communication will only cause more frustration from youth culture, and we already know what can happen from that.