How Twitter was used to spread - and knock down - rumours during the riots and why BlackBerry Messenger was rioters' communication method of choice
Posted in: Internet Use/New Technologies at 08/12/2011 22:26
Rumour is a pipe blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, wrote Shakespeare. In the age of Twitter we can now add: and by the ease of clicking "retweet".
Whether it was the tantalising possibility of a tiger padding about in Primrose Hill or army tanks gathering in the City of London, some Britons proved themselves remarkably willing to share all manner of startling reports on Twitter during the August riots, whatever their accuracy. But what is perhaps more interesting is how Twitter was also used to disprove many rumours.
To read this report in The Guardian in full, see:
Why BlackBerry Messenger was rioters' communication method of choice
Hours after the riots in Tottenham on Saturday 6 August had finally abated and London's streets had returned to relative calm, a message pinged out, first on to a few phones, then dozens, then hundreds if not thousands across north London.
"Everyone in edmonton enfield wood green everywhere in north link up at enfield town station at 4 o clock sharp!!!!," it began. "Start leaving ur yards n linking up with your niggas. Fuck da feds, bring your ballys and your bags trollys, cars vans, hammers the lot!!"
Facebook played little role in planning riots, despite harsh sentences
Facebook played little or no role in the organisation of the summer riots, and was mainly used by people to comment on what was happening, the Guardian and LSE's study has found.
Despite harsh sentences handed down by the courts for incitement on the social networking site, few rioters we spoke to used Facebook in a significant way during the riots or thought the site was used to spread disorder.
How 2.6m tweets were analysed to understand reaction to the riots
Social media data is of great value for researchers wishing to understand how people use platforms such as Twitter to react during events such as the August riots.
However, the sheer volume generated by social media users - in this case 2.6m tweets - makes it difficult to analyse using conventional methods.
Twitter and the riots: how the news spread
For many people, the England riots began with a flurry of curious Twitter messages shortly before 9pm on Saturday 6 August.
"There is a photo of a police car burning circulating, claiming it's outside Tottenham police station #markduggan #tottenham shooting," one of the messages read. Users were sharing news of a police car ablaze outside Tottenham police station.