The Social Face of the St Patrick's Day Riots
Use of social media during riots is a cause for concern for politicians and police around the world. The riots throughout the UK last year were supported by extensive use of the Blackberry Messenger service. This usage resulted in some politicians asking for social networks to be shut down during periods of civil unrest.
London was the scene once more of the latest instance of social media abuse during a riot. This time though it was London, Ontario, the scene of riots on St. Patrick's Day.
The Globe and Mail report that some rioters made the rather dim witted decision to share their rioting on social media. One posted to Facebook that he had helped to flip a car and set a van on fire, whilst another tweeted about flipping a car over.
The public response to such bravado however was predictibly stern. A grassroots campaign identified the culprits and they were phoned and texted by both friends and strangers criticizing them for their role in the riots.
The status update was quickly deleted, with the culprit later claiming that he was merely in the crowd at the time and was not actually involved in the car flipping, but the damage was done.
“Now I’m sitting here going: ‘I really hope I can fix this because I don’t want to end up being charged for something I didn’t even do,’ ” he told The Globe and Mail on Sunday, at which point he hadn’t heard from police. “… I look at it and think ‘Oh my gosh, like, why did I write that?’ ”
Continued on the next page
The public, disgusted by what they were reading, began sending photos and screenshots of the status updates to the police. Proving guilt is of course slightly more complex than this. For instance there were tweets boasting about riotous behavior from the @_standope account. After public outcry the account was quickly deleted. Police have said cannot make an instant arrest because they would first need to prove that Ryan Stanhope was indeed the person writing the tweets made under his name. A tweet in isolation is not really enough.