social media: UBIQUITOUS TECHNOLOGY / londoners use twitter @RiotCleanup
[Plus photonews story of malaysian student mugged and robbed]

CANADA, AUGUST 11, 2011 (YAHOO NEWS) REUTERS - When social media helped protesters organize and overthrow corrupt regimes in the Arab world earlier this year, while also providing citizen journalism when mainstream media was shut out, it was lauded as a tool of democracy.

However, when the same methods are used in a scenario like Britain, they are seen as disturbing, says Megan Boler, a media studies professor in Toronto.

"Here it's not about a dictator. Here the issue is the corporation as a representative symbol.

These things always spiral off into hitting the mom and pop stores, which is unfortunate," says Boler, who teaches at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

A writer named Kami makes the same point with this post on Facebook.

"Cuz [sic] people who protest in the western countries are rioters, looters, and violent enemies of the good state, so social media is the "catalyst." In Egypt and elsewhere, social media was the tool that made revolution against evil dictators possible. Look for facebook [sic] and others to either have a major overhaul, be a tool for arrests/disappearances, or be named an enemy of the state when massive uprisings happen in the US."

British officials believe social media, particularly BlackBerry messenger, helped to ignite and organize rioters in Britain, but experts say such tools are now a fact of life and simply alternative forms of communication — for good or evil.

"It's ubiquitous technology," Boler says of Facebook, Twitter, email and smartphones. "It's everywhere."

[Photo - G20 riots in Toronto, Ontario, Canada]

Ian Maude, an analyst at new-technology researchers Enders Analysis, told the Wall Street Journal that it's much easier for people to communicate with each other in real time via these services, "but that's a fact of life.

"They're [obviously] not good or evil in themselves, it's [simply] the purposes for which people use them."

The social media aspect is actually a distraction from deep-rooted issues and the real story, which is chronic economic malaise and the growing disparity between rich and poor in Britain, just as was the case in the Arab uprisings, says Boler.

[PHOTO - The Arab Uprising]

"It's no coincidence this would happen so soon after the world-wide freakout about stocks and the economic crisis.

"When you listen to the local voices [on social media] in London, who are not represented by mainstream media for the most part, they are talking about the lack of jobs, inequality, the youth clubs that were cut. So they have no jobs and nothing to do.

"The real reasons for this rebellion, which is a better word for it than riot, are economic conditions, racism and police brutality."

There has been much discussion on social media sites about the underlying issues of the riots such as this tweet from Josh Kopecek: "All those feeling smug about #riotcleanup, how about cleaning up the inequality in U.K. society?"

On the other hand, British Prime Minister David Cameron blamed the violence on "the mindless selfishness" of looters.

[Photo - in midst of riots in Belfast a kid texting urging children to join]

British police say small groups of youths used text messages, instant messaging on their BlackBerrys and social media platforms such as Twitter to co-ordinate their attacks in London and stay ahead of authorities.

Some of the text messages early on in the rioting read like real-time rallying calls for rioters, police say.

"If you're down for making money, we're about to go hard in east London," one looter messaged before the violence spread.

Still others directed looters to areas of untapped riches — stores selling expensive stereo equipment, designer clothes, alcohol and bicycles.

Many of the masked or hooded youths were photographed typing messages on their cellphones while flames engulfed cars and buildings.

The same reckless behaviour was on display in Vancouver in June at the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But while no one would have thought a hockey riot could change the outcome of the game, it's likely some rioters in Britain believe there's a possibility the havoc they're wreaking might force a political change, says Toni Schmader, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

"You're talking about people who might feel so disadvantaged they feel completely powerless in their lives, and once this snowballs to the point where everyone jumps in and starts breaking these laws, there's a sense of empowerment that comes from that."

The use of social media by British rioters has led some to call for authorities to shut them down.

But one social media researcher points out the same sites are used by people speaking out against the violence.

"Frankly I think it makes more sense to ask what policies of the British government have led people to have that level of outrage," says Alexandra Samuel of Emily Carr University.

[photo - the Blackberry Messenger- cheapest and easiest way to text messages]

Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, has agreed to help British police track users who may be inciting the violence. In response, hackers posted threats on the company's website, claiming they would publish details about its employees if RIM assisted police.

One of the iconic images of the London riots, garnering more than a million views on YouTube, is the shocking video of a 20-year-old Malaysian student who was robbed by looters as he sat bleeding and injured from a broken jaw and bashed-in teeth on a London street. (Story below this page)

In the video, he is approached by a group of young men who appear to want to help him but instead steal the wallet from his backpack.

The man is recovering in hospital where he has been visited by the Malaysian high commissioner to the U.K.

The young man had reportedly been fasting all day in observance of Ramadan and had just gone out to get food when he was attacked.

While social media has documented the worst of the violence, it is also being used to help catch the alleged culprits and clean up the aftermath of the chaos.

British police are using their website to try to catch suspected rioters by posting photos taken from security cameras and asking for the public's help in identifying them.

Britons are also coming together, using Facebook and Twitter to mobilize cleanup efforts. #riotcleanup has had more than 100,000 tweets.

People were also using social media to express their shock, anger and sadness at events such as this tweet from @makeida: "Today I would like to see the mothers of last night's children down on the streets cleaning up after their greedy embarrassment."

Sarah Burnett put a humorous twist on her tweet: "My son went to Clampton Junction for the cleanup today. Can you please ask him to do his bedroom next?"

The high penetration of mobile technology in Britain makes the country a fertile ground for using social media in these types of situations, says Boler.

[Photo - riots in Cairo, Egypt in January 2011]

There are 62.5 million cell phones in a country with a population of about 61 million. The average user has 1.8 mobile phones and that figure is expected to rise to two per user soon.

The rise in ownership is attributed to people having one cell for personal calls and a BlackBerry for work.

Social media has been at the forefront of unrest for at least two decades, says Boler, pointing to the videotaped beating of Rodney King by four Los Angeles police officers in 1991.

When those officers were acquitted of assault in the case in April 1992, it sparked vicious riots in L.A. Fifty-five people were killed in several days of rioting, looting and retaliatory attacks against whites and Asians. About 2,000 people were injured, and another 12,000 arrested.

A second iconic video from those riots is of Reginald Oliver Denny, a white truck driver who was dragged from his vehicle and beaten by a black mob. With files from Curt Petrovich

The London riot image: Malaysian student recovers

In this image from amateur video, a gang of youths in Barking, East London surround Malaysian accountancy student Mohammed Asyraf Haziq, 20, who had been attacked and mugged in the street by an earlier group during rioting Monday Aug. 8 2011.

As one of this group appeared to help Haziq to his feet others took the opportunity to open his backpack and remove other valuables.

The video of the attack on Haziq went viral Tuesday Aug 9 and has become one of the most memorable scenes from four days of unrest.

So shocking was the robbing of an injured man that Prime Minister David Cameron felt moved to describe it as a sign of a deeper societal malaise in Britain.

(AP Photo/Abdul Hamid via Sky/ APTN)

The video has become synonymous with London's riots: A young man, bleeding and dazed, is helped from the ground by a group of youths — who promptly unzip his backpack and callously make off with its contents.

But who is he? And what happened next?

The young man is 20-year-old Malaysian accounting student Mohammad Asyraf Haziq, who was cycling with a friend in east London on Monday to a gathering to break his fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to a friend, Dzuhair Hanafiah.

The details of his trip are as chilling as the video.

First, a group of about 20 teens and preteens surrounded him. Then they grabbed his bike, took his cell phone and broke his jaw, Hanafiah told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

"The next thing he remembered, his mouth was full of blood," said Hanafiah, a member of the London Umno club, a society for Malaysian students. "He was just left there."

The video of the attack on Haziq went viral Tuesday and has become one of the most memorable scenes from four days of unrest. So shocking was the robbing of an injured man that Prime Minister David Cameron felt moved to describe it as a sign of a deeper societal malaise in Britain.

"There are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick," Cameron told reporters in somber statement Wednesday. "When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things that are badly wrong with our society."

Hanafiah said Haziq was helped by a local woman who brought him into her home. Using Facebook, she was able to help him contact a friend and helped him until he could get to the hospital.

"His face is swollen, but he's all right," Hanafiah said. "He's in good spirits."

Although he has a broken jaw and is unable to talk, Haziq has made it clear he wants to remain in Britain and continue his studies here, Hanafiah said. Not only that, he insists he wants to remain in Barking, the same area where the attack occurred, ignoring offers to move to parts of London less affected by the rioting.

"He says, 'No, I still love Barking ... what happened has happened,'" Hanafiah said.

They threatened to stab me, says student mugged by 'Samaritans' during London riots By Vanessa Allen Last updated at 9:10 AM on 11th August 2011

Student robbed while bleeding only arrived in England a month ago * Police identify one suspect who allegedly mugged injured Ashraf Haziq * Well-wishers organise online fund to fly student's parents to UK to visit son

The student who was beaten up in the riots and then mugged as he struggled to his feet told yesterday how his attackers – some as young as 11 – threatened to stab him.

[Photo - Recovering: Mr Haziq is seen in his hospital bed at Royal London Hospital, where he is awaiting surgery on a broken jaw after the sickening attack]

Sickening video footage of a mob surrounding Mohammed Ashraf Haziq has been shown around the world after being posted on YouTube.

Mr Haziq, who won a scholarship to study here, relived his ordeal from his hospital bed when he was visited by a friend who filmed the chat and posted it online.

They threatened to stab me, they told me they had knives,’ he says in the footage.

‘Some of them were quite young, maybe still in primary school. They had their hoods on and demanded my bicycle.’

[Photo - Riot victim: Accountancy student Mohammed Ashraf Haziq, 20, had only arrived in Britain a month ago.]

n the YouTube video, the student, bloody and dazed after being punched to ground, is apparently helped to his feet by a Good Samaritan.

But the thugs then plunder his rucksack, taking his wallet, phone and Sony PSP games console.

The video was even mentioned by David Cameron yesterday.

When we see children as young as 13, looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things that are badly wrong in our society,’ said the Prime Minister.

The 20-year-old finance student’s jaw was broken in the attack and he is due to have surgery at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, East London. He also lost some of his teeth. His injuries mean he is unable to eat properly and he is being fed via a hospital drip.

[Photo - Injuries: Mr Haziq still has facial swelling after the attack and can be seen missing several front teeth after having his jaw broken] [Photo - Here he is pictured
 at home in Malaysia. He is
sitting with his eight-year-old
brother Mohammed Fatiri]

Londoners Use Twitter To Coordinate Riot Cleanup
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Parmy Olson, Forbes Staff
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The message from London’s police last night was clear: after three days of rioting, local people needed to stay at home and off the streets so they could do their jobs. But not everyone is listening, at least when it comes to picking up the pieces.

Groups of people have taken to Twitter to organize clean-ups in the areas worst hit by rioters in the last three days in areas to the north, south, east and west of London.

[Photo - Londoners gather in solidarity in Hackney; photo via @RiotCleanup]

The Twitter account @RiotCleanup has taken on more than 48,000 followers after setting up just seven hours ago and has been posting locations and times for people to meet up to clean, urging them to bring heavy duty sacks for glass and heavy objects, gardening, and rubber gloves.

This morning supporters were due to meet at 10am in Camberwell, South London by St. Giles Church and outside East Croydon Station, where a devastating fire brought down a large, family-run furniture store last night.

Londoners gather in solidarity in Hackney; photo via @RiotCleanup

The initiative offers locals a chance to confront the powerlessness they may feel about remedying a chaotic situation, and tap into the getting-on-with-it spirit of Londoners made famous by the city’s reaction to the Blitz in World War II. The idea is, throw anything at Britain’s capital and locals will handle it with aplomb and some irreverence.

The @RiotCleanup Twitter feed has for instance spawned the hashtag #riotwombles, referring to anyone helping with the cleanup and referencing an old Children’s television show about giant furry creatures. Rioters reportedly used social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to encourage more violence; now locals were using similar tools to clear up their mess.

The account holder to @RiotClean claims to have been calling police ahead of designated cleanups to check each of the suggested locations are not crime scenes. Volunteers should know simply by the police tape that has gone up around certain affected areas, a spokesperson for London’s Metropolitan Police said. “But we wouldn’t discourage it,” he added.

Last night the Met’s assistance commissioner called for people not to congregate near the scenes of rioting so that police could more effectively deal with troublemakers and to stay at home. That’s not the case now. “These pieces of advice are given based on what is occurring at a given time,” the spokesman said.

The Met said this morning that last night was “the worst [it had] seen in current memory for unacceptable levels of widespread looting, fires and disorder.” So far there have been 334 arrests in connection with the riots, 69 charged, and in the next 24 hours there will be 13,000 police officers on duty in London.

@Riotcleanup has meanwhile been encouraging any local businesses to get in contact if a cleanup is needed. So far, though, it looks like there is less work to do that organizers had expected. Hackney and Lewisham are both said to be “pretty cleaned up by now,” @RiotCleanup tweeted. At least they can say that if rioters take to the streets again, locals will be ready

Author Parmy Olson says: I’ve covered European business and technology news for Forbes since 2006, and as London bureau chief since 2008. I'm using this blog to explore some of the disruptive technology and ideas coming out of this region. Before all this I tracked the highs of the private equity boom and the lows of the subprime mortgage crisis, as well as the creators, destroyers and enjoyers of wealth that make up our Forbes lists. If you have story ideas or tips, e-mail me at or follow me on Twitter: parmy.

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