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Technology Blamed For Helping UK Rioters 682

Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that following three nights of rioting and looting in London, Blackberry's messaging network and social networking sites are being blamed by police, politicians and media organizations for helping rioters in London spread word about the next hot spot . It's an 'encrypted, very secure, safe, fast, cheap, free, easy way for disaffected urban youth to spread messages for the next targets,' says Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe and digital advisor to the Mayor of London. But Ian Maude, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said it's unfair to lay the blame on technology. 'Certainly, it's a lot easier for people to communicate with each other in real time via some of these services but that's a fact of life. They're not good or evil in themselves, its the purposes for which people use them.' The Metropolitan Police, known as Scotland Yard, say they are monitoring social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM), the maker of Blackberry smartphones, says it has 'engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.'" An anonymous reader points out that the rioters aren't the only ones using technology. London police have begun posting pictures on Flikr of people they'd like to interview following the riots over the last few days.
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Technology Blamed For Helping UK Rioters

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @10:59AM (#37032822)

    And technology was equally blamed for helping UK police.

    Just another example where technology changes nothing. It just enables all the good and bad impulses inherent in humanity.

  • I call bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:00AM (#37032826)

    Blaming technology for the rioting is bullshit. You have to have people willing to riot and loot in the first place, this just helps them group together....

    But more than that, the real bullshit is that in any group that size, there's no way the communication is "secure", in fact it MUST be broadcast (by tweet or whatever) where anyone could see it. Yes that lets rioters group but it also SHOULD give police a heads-up where to be. If technology is to blame for the riots then the police are almost as much to blame for allowed the riots to occur when the targets are handed to them on a digital platter beforehand.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:00AM (#37032834)
    A few months ago the western world wailed loudly when some arab countries terminated internet and mobile phone connections because it was thought to be assisting their local rioters. Here we have a supposedly democratic country where, at the first sign of trouble, government officials are suggesting exactly the same thing.
  • by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:03AM (#37032868)
    Guns blamed for helping gunmen shoot people.
    Bombs blamed for helping suicide bomber blow up.
    Planes blamed for helping people crash planes.
    Fire blamed for helping people start fires.
    Phones blamed for helping people coordinate bad things.
    Internet blamed for child pornography proliferation.

    How about this?
    Sensationalist media blamed for making everything a scandal or a controversy!

    People wanting to ignore and pass off responsibility just fire the blame cannon everywhere. Why are they rioting? Why is there so much civil unrest in England? Are the English that repressed that this is a cry-out for help? Or is this all being blown out of proportion, and the riots are really just a couple of small groups causing trouble. Personally, I think the PoliceState in that country has spiraled out of control, and now there is a growing underground movement with there backs to the wall, so we are seeing the rebellion swell as more and more dissenters act out the only way they personally feel they can. How about looking at the fundamental causes for societal unrest, lets analyze the sociology of the The Land of the Panopticon Complex.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:11AM (#37032954)

    Give law-abiding Britains their gun rights back and let them use them in public when attacked by people who clearly intend to render substantial harm to life, limb or property.

    Liberals were predicting that the "make my day" self-defense statutes Florida and Georgia have would result in a bloodbath because recipients of violence could not only stand their ground (by abolishing the "duty to retreat") but also lowered the threshold for using a weapon in self-defense.

    Instead, a lot of criminals suddenly realized it would be open season on them.

    Of course, you're well within your right to lecture these "redneck states" on how uncivilized their behavior is--even as your city is struggling with outright barbarism in its midst.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:24AM (#37033148)

    The disturbing part is that the police and more importantly the politicians are focusing on the tactics being used rather than the underlying causes of social unrest. How about figuring out why you have disaffected youth rather than how they are effective at being disruptive.

  • by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:26AM (#37033164)
    With all the surveillance cameras in London one would thought that is has to be the most secure city in the world.

    Oh the irony.
  • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:33AM (#37033248) Journal

    How about figuring out why you have disaffected youth rather than how they are effective at being disruptive.

    The job of the police isn't to determine why, it's to stop it from happening. The police are doing their job. The 'why' is only for politicians to work out and try to address.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:38AM (#37033302)

    Yes, we in the UK should definitely consider selling our principles out.

    After all, a mere 10,000 people annually are killed by guns in the US, and when you compare that to the 40 or so people who have been injured in these riots the case is clear - we should have more guns in the UK.

    When the unrest does hit your state, and regular citizens are shot with their own guns, which is what always happens when inexperienced gun owners try to take the law into their own hands, I hope Slashdot is up long enough for me to laugh at you.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:42AM (#37033330)

    Living in London, and seeing the chaos first hand, I find the millions of ignorant teenage American basement dwellers posting here, with their stupid, teenage libertarian logic highly offensive. Britain is a different country, with different traditions, and different laws to the US.

    IF these gangs of hoodlums were all packing .45s, then hundreds of innocent people would likely be dead.
    There is NO government conspiracy to start riots as a pretext to limit our civil liberties
    CCTV does work -- ask all the homie-g gangbangers being busted right now, where the evidence that put them behind bars came from

    Grow up, and kindly refrain from commenting on things you obviously know nothing about. Ignoramuses.

  • by shugah ( 881805 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @11:56AM (#37033520)
    I don't live in the UK, so I obviously don't have my finger on the pulse of London. I'm sure SOME of the people are upset over actions of the police and real or perceived inequalities and the police shooting of a young man in a poorer neighbourhood. But there is undoubtedly a number of people for whom this is just an opportunity to behave badly.

    As someone who has observed pointless, causeless, riots, or attempts to get riots started at so many large public gatherings and events over the last decade, from the Seattle WTO meetings, the Toronto G8 summit, the Genoa G8 Summit, the Vancouver Stanley Cup finals, a failed attempt at the Vancouver Olympics, football hooliganism across Europe, etc. in most of these cases, there was really no social cause, just an opportunity to behave badly and anonymously in a crowd. Most of the participants, were simply partying violently and could not even articulate what social injustice they were upset about.

    No one loves their government, there is always unrest, and always the "disaffected" and "disenfranchised". Sometimes there is a cause, but it has to be recognized that every large public gathering provides an opportunity for the darker side of human "crowd mentality" to come out.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @12:02PM (#37033608) Homepage Journal

    Interesting but how is smashing windows and grabbing TV sets, burning down a bank after you fail to get the money out of ATMs, and burning peoples cars fighting the power and not just plain looting?
    Are these kids fighting for the right to vote? I guess the funniest or saddest thing I saw was on the BBC this young woman that was wearing somewhat expensive cloths was standing in while people where looting a store and telling the reporter it was about "respect". She said, "If you want us to respect you than you must respect us first.".
    This is a looting spree. Even the shooting looks like the person shot had a gun. At first they said it was just a replica but if and adult pulls what looks like a gun on an officer and points it at them do you wait to see if a bullet comes out of it? Now the BBC says it was a real gun. I don't know but could this be a case of the Police where right and people are jumping to conclusions and then bands of criminals are exploiting the situation?
    Really you need to get a clue. This is criminal violence going down in a democracy it is not a peaceful protest. Also notice that the police are not shooting people on site and are trying to decrease the violence with a minimum of force. It is a shame that people can not see the difference.

  • by bertoelcon ( 1557907 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @12:07PM (#37033676)
    Not to crap on your analogy but sometimes those fires are put out with explosions. That might be analogous to how they end the riots...
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @12:36PM (#37034000)

    What? Nobody is asking why this is possible at all? I mean, let's look at what's going down here: Someone got shot. Someone else spreads the (false or true, who cares?) information that he was the victim of police violence. And suddenly all hell breaks loose and people are rioting.

    Could it be, just COULD, that we're sitting on a powder keg with a damn lot of people SO pissed at government and the whole mess governments have put us in that they will accept ANY reason to vent their anger violently?

    That's the only explanation I could see. I mean, think about it, why else should a lot (and we're talking about a LOT) of people go out, become a mob and riot? Because they care for the guy who was shot? At best, it's the spark for the already filled to the brim keg.

    The problem isn't technology, and it isn't that someone was shot. They now want to close the lid on the keg to keep it from exploding, because that's all that's needed, not only in London.

    A spark.

    People are angry. VERY angry. It's like looking at a saturated solution ready to crystalize, and all it needs is a disturbance to set it in motion.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @01:15PM (#37034550)

    Trouble is, nobody really knows why these kids have been raised so badly and why the schools have taught them so badly and why their culture hasn't encouraged them to aspire to working hard and why there aren't enough job opportunities that suit their level of ability. It is tragic for them.

    Um, the left have spent decades pushing policies which created a feral underclass who believe that they can go out and smash stuff up and burn buildings down and won't be punished for it. If 'nobody' is smart enough to figure that out, then Britain really is doomed.

    The real question is what do you do with millions of people who are violent and unemployable who have been told all their lives that they have a right to free stuff paid for by the remainder who are productive and law-abiding? And that's an abyss the politicians don't want to look into because many of them have been instrumental in creating it and there is no good way of dealing with it.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @01:16PM (#37034556)

    Why are they doing it? That is the question that I'd like to have answered. If it is organized crime, it does not need a focal point like a shooting of someone. Unless you want to tell me that this is the "revenge" of the criminal organization for killing one of their people, but if that was the case, London would have WAY bigger problems to deal with than simple riots. If this was the case, London would be at the mercy of that criminal organization.

    So why are they doing this now? I'm kinda wary of mainstream media reporting about interviews with the rioters, I'm not so sure they'd be correctly represented. After all, the media have an interest in reporting what the public wants to hear, and they certainly prefer to hear "black criminals on the loose" to "black people so fed up with the way they're treated that they go rioting".

  • by misexistentialist ( 1537887 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @01:17PM (#37034562)
    How can it be a "CCTV network" if the "cameras aren't hooked up to a central network"? And of course most cameras are privately run: a supermarket might have 50, while you can suppress democracy in the town square with 5. You'd need a dozen cameras to secure your house, while the government can secure itself from you with 2 pointed at the doors.
  • The difference is whether the people rioting have higher moral principles than the people they're protesting against.

    And THAT is exactly the point. That is the key to the rioting and looting this time around. I've posted this in two place now, but here's goes again: The London riots cannot be divorced from the recent political and financial scandals in the UK and beyond.

    In the last few years, the general public has been made privy to the monumental failure of ethics and responsibility in institutions both public and private. Bankers and financiers have been seen publicly seen to profit enormously from feckless and irresponsible behaviour. Politicians and civil servants have been shown to be inept at best, and in collusion at worst. And--in particular in the UK--the media and police force have been found to be involved in the most scandalous, unscrupulous and unethical behaviour of recent times.

    We are living in an age of irresponsibility.

    It's interesting to see that many of the rioters are expressing no political, social, or ideological motivations. They are either engaged in arson or larceny. It is simple opportunism. But this behaviour not a random incident; it is an inevitable consequence of our times. I would hold that these rioters across the UK, discontented from the effects of austerity and unemployment, and cynicised by the endless stream of unresolved scandals, have simply decided to have their own slice of the rotten pie.

    If bankers can loot the nation without consequence, if the media can destroy lives with impunity, and politicians lie without consequence, then why should a young unemployed man with few prospects turn up what may be his only opportunity to own a big flatscreen TV, or some designer clothes, or to vent his rage at the state? Because it would be "wrong"? Because it is "immoral", "unethical"? But for his entire life this young man has been shown by example that crime pays, that ruthlessness and wrongdoing pays, that rage and emotion pay.

    I don't wish to sound like a religious reactionary, bemoaning the loss of public morality. But what kind of ethics have these young men learned from their leaders and public and private institutions? In the UK and beyond. Where are the ethical pillars of our society who lead by example? In politics? In the church? In the media? In private industry? I see none such. And moreover, I see those in such influential positions profiting from their poor examples.

    Remember to these young people, the state over the last 10 years is all they have ever known. A state that has lied and warred. A media that has colluded and harassed. Public institutions who have lost all sense of civic duty. Industries that have profited from the most wanton recklessness and greed. And everywhere, none have been held to account.

    There are other underlying causes such as deprivation, unemployment, and hooliganism. But such things have always existed in the UK and elsewhere, but I see this spontaneous outbreak of criminal opportunism first and foremost as a sign of our times. These opportunist rioters have been lead by example by our corrupted ruling classes. As the saying goes, "As above, so below".

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @01:28PM (#37034712)

    Someone please mod parent up to 11.

    The brits are forever preaching to the US about how this type of mob violence, and how it never happens in Britain (ignoring history) and how British police are for the most part unarmed. All the while their country is slipping into a technological dictatorship where taking a picture of a landmark gets your camera seized.

    Now the authorities raise the SAME alarm as Mubarac in Egypt, Gaddafi in Lybia, and Assad in Syria. We are probably hours away from the British government suspending texting services and perhaps even cell service in the affected areas, just as was attempted in those countries. (Meanwhile, I suspect the Police CCTV system (if still operational) is recording everything in hi-def.)

    That the riots are all in defense of a drug dealer is ridiculous. Its long past that.

    The largely docile british citizen in some of these areas is probably reaching the breaking point, and has had enough of a government more interested in stepping on their necks than helping them prosper. Meanwhile the upper crust in the rest of the country is clucking and tsk tsk-ing and sending in more police. What's next? Importing advisers from Syria? Shooting in the streets?

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @02:26PM (#37035420)

    The riots have gone way past the involvement of a "bunch of thieves". Have you even looks at the photos and the size of the crowds?

    This rioting is something Britain has not seen in recent years. It is a totally new expression of anger from what sociologists would call the "underclass." That said, there are familiar elements in the build-up to last night's anarchy that might help you understand it a little.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @03:03PM (#37035840)

    Well, the pictures don't look too different. In both people run around, fight the police and light buildings on fire. In both scenarios people get hurt and looting happens. The main difference seems to be that we agree with one and disagree with the other.

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