In a defiant stand against the London riots, ordinary people showed their support for neighbours, community members and other Londoners by using twitter to mobilise groups of people and co-ordinate a clean-up of the areas affected by looting. The aptly named twitter handle, @Riotcleanup, built an 80,000 strong following overnight, literally by reaching out to those in need, encouraging people to donate funds or volunteer to help clean-up the streets, which is in stark contrast to the suggestion that social media started the riots.
Using Riotcleanup hashtag (replicating their twitter name), twitterers are able find out information about how to get involved in the clean-up operation – where to meet, what to bring and what is needed to be done. The #Riotcleanup team, which included high profile celebrities such as Lord Sugar, Kate Nash and Kaiser Chiefs, have in recent days helped people in Clapham, Tottenham, Hackney, Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester and Wolverhampton salvage what’s left of their small businesses. As #Riotcleanup remains a trending topic on twitter, I expect the number of volunteers and words of support to be on the rise, proving that social media can be a force for good.
Facebook is also being used as a medium for those near and far to show their support for the anti-riot movement. Pages such as Supporting the Met Police against the London rioters has attracted 990,000 fans and the Operation Cup of Tea event, has received over 10,000 attendees.
This user-driven activity has been mirrored by the Metropolitan Police who are using their flickr channel to post images of offenders they’re looking to track down. So far this channel has received around 350,000 views which is significant given that previous views averaged around 13,000. But what is really interesting and heartening is society’s interest and passion in working with the authorities to tackle these criminal acts. This is evidenced by the actions of individuals who have taken matters in to their own hands to protect their businesses and fellow community members.
The use of social media as a communication and engagement platform has kept people informed of hotspot areas, mobilised those keen to help, engaged those affected, connected citizens with victims, and enabled people to share their experiences from the front-line. In essence social media has allowed communities to be stronger than the criminals, which is a triumph!
Please visit social blogger, Michelle Lyons, on twitter at @mlyons to read more.