If you’ve been keeping up with international news, you’ve probably heard about the riots and looting taking place in England. You may have also heard that some are quick to place blame on BlackBerry Messenger and social media websites like Twitter for helping these hooligans communicate. In fact, British MP David Lammy is calling for the suspension of BBM service in England because of its suspected use by rioters and because the messages are private and can’t be accessed by police.
Here’s my problem with that: What did rioters ever do before BBM and Twitter? Rioting has been going on for thousands of years, long before we had any of our modern communication methods.
Here are a few examples:
The Nika Riot in the year 532 AD in Constantinople. Without going into a long history lesson, I’ll just say that this riot was said to be essentially over chariot racing and politics (which, at the time, were very much intertwined). It’s believed that 30,000 people were killed.
Move forward in time to March 5th 1770, the date of the so-called Boston Massacre. British soldiers fired after being threatened by a mob, killing five civilians and injuring eleven more. It was an event that helped spark the rebellion of some British American colonies, culminating in the American Revolutionary War.
With the thousands, upon thousands of riots throughout history, I could go on but I think you get the idea.
My point is, history shows us that rioting does not require the use of BBM and Twitter. Shutting down BBM service alone will not stop what’s happening in England as rioters will simply find another way to communicate. There’s always text messaging, phone calls and the good ol’ fashioned face-to-face conversation.
In my opinion, we should not be demonizing social media and BBM (or punishing all users, including the innocent ones) for the poor decisions of a group of thugs. Blame the thugs.