Londoners employ social media in riot cleanup


9 Aug 2011

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Londoners are taking to social media to organise riot cleanups while police are cracking down on anyone using Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and the like to incite violence.

London witnessed a third night of riots on Monday as violence spread to other cities across the UK.

Looting, arson and other violence have flared up in Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham.

The troubles began on Saturday after a peaceful protest in Tottenham, which was being held to mark the fatal shooting of a man by police.

Now, police suspect the riots have been co-ordinated through social media in the hope of initiating more incidents than authorities have the capability to deal with.

"The police commanders are doing their utmost to try and control (the situation), but the use of social media, Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones, etcetera, is causing the crowds to be so mobile, they’re popping up in all sorts of areas and locations across the city – it is very difficult to keep on top of it," vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Union, John Tully, told ABC News.

Police have issued a statement saying that anyone inciting violence on social networks will have to deal with the authorities.

Londoners have had enough. A hashtag has begun trending on microblogging site Twitter regarding the riot cleanup: #RiotCleanup, and other variants have sprung up as well, such as #Lewishamriotcleanup. Someone is even co-ordinating times on Riotcleanup.com.

Another response has been to start mapping where incidents occurred.

CatchaLooter (@Catchalooter on Twitter) is encouraging submissions, and a Tumblr blog urges people to submit images of looters.

Photo: Riot-stricken London