You can’t predict a riot

Last August, England was subject to five days of rioting. The spark for the unprecedented interlude of social unrest was the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham by the police. London erupted – there was widespread looting, disturbances, violence and arson.

The riots then spread to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol. For a tiny period of time, it felt like the country was petering on the edge of social disintegration. Luckily, in much the same way it started up, it died out unknowingly.

It was novel in many ways. There was, for example, no direct correlation between the death of Mr Duggan, a young black man, and many of the subsequent acts of violence. While some people did in fact conduct peaceful protests, for the large part, the riots took on a feverish quality, leaderless and without a cause.

Even now it is hard to define the root causes of the turbulence. A generation lost perhaps, with no opportunities to move? Sure. But, there were oddities, middle class kids rebelling against…well, what?

Another fascinating facet of the riots were the utilisation of social media and the use of instant messaging via mobiles to organise squads of rioters. Social unrest had become very (digitally) social.

Earlier this month, an unemployed man was sentenced in Wood Green Crown Court, London, to two years imprisonment at a young offenders’ institute. It is thought to be one of the first cases of its kind.

Terry Balson, 20, set up a page on Facebook entitled For the Riot (F**K the feds), which was “capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of one or more of a number of offences, namely riot, burglary and criminal damage”.

The police, though already monitoring social media websites actively, have in the wake of the riots, stepped up the level and intensity. Naturally, people are concerned that this kind of monitoring equates to a kind of Big Brother state, “the eye” ever-watchful of every movement you make in the digital world.

However, as Stuart Hyde, deputy chief constable, informed the Counter Terror Expo last month, the new age of openness entitles them the liberty to do so: “If your Facebook is open and you allow people to come in — tough, we will do it.”

More worrying, especially for stern advocates of freedom of information and civil liberties, was calls – or at least discussion points – about the viability of putting into motion social media blackouts in the event of similar rioting.

Last year, for example, the Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who is herself an active online communicator – Twitter is her preferred medium – backed such a measure.

“I don’t have a problem with a brief temporary shutdown of social media just as I don’t have a problem with a brief road or rail closure,” she said at the time. “If short, necessary and only used in an emergency, so what. We’d all survive if Twitter shut down for a short while during major riots.”

However, as Greater Manchester Police explained, social media, though a powerful tool for rioters is equally beneficial. Not only are officers able to communicate directly with people on the street, they can use online networks to project positive messages and put out “hearsay fires” before they turn into something more damaging.

It’s a debate that has yet to come to any sort of logical conclusion. After all, in the context of Blackberry users messaging via BBM (its messenger service), surveillance is, by virtue of privacy, denied. To then block it in its entirety during a crisis would cause lots of problems.

This technology is supposed to liberate us. To deny that is to take a step backwards. There has to be better options out there. “Targeted blackouts” could be one option, using hashtags to identify conversations and then perpetrators another. It’s about being creative.

Our accreditations & Partners

  • REC Member
  • VTC - Virtual Technology Cluster
  • RANT Events
  • Bloom Nepro
  • YPO
  • Crown Commerical Service
  • Disability Confident
  • ISO 9001
  • Armed Force Covenant
  • Cyber Essentials Plus
  • ISO 27001

Thanks

Success

Thanks

Success

Thank you for signing up to the acumin alerts.

Send CV

Send us your CV and have our recruiters match you to the ideal opportunities

Do you already have an account with us?

Log in

Want to have an account with us?

Register

Want to just send us your CV?

Upload only doc, docx, odt, pdf format file.

By submitting your registration and CV to us you are agreeing to join our database and to be contacted about relevant jobs industry communications. Please read our terms of business for more information.

Password reset

If you need a reminder for your password, fill out the field below

Log in

Access your account to edit your contact details, job alerts or to upload a new CV

Thank you

Success

Thank you for successfully uploading your CV.

Acumin Alerts

Success

Thanks for registering for Acumin alerts.

Acumin Alerts

Unfortunately your CV could not be uploaded

Please make sure your CV is one of the following file types: doc, docx, odt, pdf, rtf

Acumin Spam

Unfortunately your submission has been declared spam. Please try again.

Vacancy

Success

Thank you for submitting your vacancy.

Register

Create an account to register your contact details, sign up for job alerts and upload your CV

Success

Thanks for registering for Acumin alerts. To get the most out of Acumin's service why not register with us?

Upload only doc, docx, odt, pdf format file.
- Practitioner
- Commercial

I agree to the terms and conditions and to be contacted by recruiters:

I agree to receive marketing communications relevant to my job search:

I agree to receive Jobs By Email for the following professions:
- Business Continuity Management
- Counter Fraud
- Cyber Security
- Executive Management
- Governance & Compliance
- Information Security & Risk Management
- Penetration Testing & Digital Forensics
- Sales and Marketing
- Sales Engineering
- Security Management
- Technical Security
- Information/Risk Assurance
- Identity Management
- Application Security
- Security Architecture
- Dev/Sec Ops
- DV & SC Cleared Jobs
- Programme & Project Management
- CISO/CSO

Submit a Vacancy

Use the form below to submit a vacancy