Returning to a singular disruptive and essentially short-term event, the London riots (with their hyped air of ungovernability), how far has this thuggery been blamed on social networking?Articles at the time viewed social networking tools as an accelerant for a social process. Riots have always occurred: but twitter and BBM allowed the rioters to focus, co-ordinate, choose targets and avoid authority. Secondly, the social networks reinforced group norms of validation in unique circumstances: how many times did we hear looters state that they were stealing because everyone else was doing so. Crimes were committed by a far wider range of individuals than expected. Such validation was also spread by more traditional networks: the media, phones, gangs and so on.
The courts have sent down 1,000 criminals for their part in the disturbances: they were mostly white and black, none were over 40 and the government's determination for tough sentencing has been met. Most were prosecuted for burglary, violent disorder and theft. A disturbing trend was the number of juveniles arrested and charged.
Will we see further opportunistic flash riots in future years?