Twitter Did not Contribute to the London Riots
Social media was an immediate talking point during the aftermath of the riots that hit London and the rest of the UK during the summer, after it emerged that platforms such as Blackberry Messenger were used by rioters to communicate with one another.
A study last month suggested that many British people supported shutting down social media during such periods of civil unrest to help prevent them spreading.
New research rejects this hypothesis however, showing instead that Twitter was used as a force for good during the riots.
The study, conducted by the Joint Information Systems Committee, concluded that Twitter was not used to encourage and co-ordinate rioting and looting, but instead played a major part in the post-event cleanup.
"Politicians and commentators were quick to claim that social media played an important role in inciting and organizing riots, calling for sites such as Twitter to be closed should events of this nature happen again," said Rob Procter, a professor at the University of Manchester and leader of the study.
The research studied all of the tweets sent during the period and found no evidence that Twitter was used to help fan the flames of rioting.
"In contrast, we do find strong evidence that Twitter was a valuable tool for mobilizing support for the post-riot cleanup and for organizing specific cleanup activities." Procter said.
The findings chime with the panel at the Westminster eForum on eCrime, which unanimously agreed that a social media blackout would infringe on freedom of expression and would ignore the positive aspects of social networks.