Mobs and Social Media: Getting Together for the Wrong Reasons

August-18-11

Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, those social media sites were all created for the same purpose: to bring people together. However, recent trends have government officials across the world worried that some people might be getting together for the wrong reasons, mainly, committing crimes and acts of vandalism.

Flash Robs

At one point, flash mob videos were all the rage on YouTube. Those videos would show people improvising dances or songs in public places like malls or subway stations and having a little fun with it. Inspired by the trend of doing something spontaneous in a group, people are now committing what is known as flash robs.  This method of crime consists of people posting on a social media site that they will steal from a store and everybody is welcomed to join in the “fun”. It has been gaining in popularity across the United States and on July 16, a store in Ottawa was robbed by 40 people at a time. However, there are still some people using social media for the right reasons, because someone who was on the scene filmed the crime, and since the robbers we'rent smart enough to cover their faces, most of them we're caught. 

UK Riots

The recent riots that happened in the UK are being blamed on social media. Karen Buck, Labour Minister of Westminster North claims that “The sophisticated use of social media to organise growing gang activity is likely to have helped the orchestrated looting of this week's riots”. People involved in the riots apparently posted on Facebook or Twitter where the heat of the action was while others sent messages on their Blackberry smart phones, rallying people to riot. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron said that he will look into a possible crackdown on social media after citizens used websites like Twitter as an organizing tool for riots across the UK.

What has been completely overlooked in most cases is that social media, in both of these events, brought people together for positive reasons. The people in Ottawa we're arrested and some citizens in the UK got together to clean up their streets because they we're disgusted by what was going on in their towns. Social media should not be monitored by the police or government officials. Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis says about social media that “It's a communication tool, just like a telephone or like the street where people can stand up and talk. So it's really about restricting free speech”, and it would be unconstitutional to do something like that.

Sources:

Ottawa flash rob 
UK leaders propose restricting social media


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