A Dark Side Of Social Media

I’ve been fascinated by social media ever since I first learned about it. I’ve read about its reach, its benefits, its vast potential!

Today, however, reminded me of something I’ve learned long ago: anything can be used and abused. And social media is no exception.

Before I go on, let me explain what got me started writing about this.

Just a moment ago, I watched the news and saw rioting occurring in London. I was surprised to learn it’s now reached its 3rd night, and it left me wondering why.

Immediately I got online to try to find out more. What I found out was…disturbing.

Apparently the rioting started when a 29-year old civilian named Mark Duggan was shot by Metropolitan Police Service officers on August 4 during a police operation on some alleged cocaine dealers. Various news clips reported that police engaged Mr. Duggan, or the other way around, in an armed confrontation.

What made this arguably unique? Mr. Duggan…was black.

Mr. Duggan’s family since claimed he was unarmed when he was eventually shot by police. The matter has since been referred to their Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigates the death of a civilian resulting from a police action.

A peaceful protest was held on August 6, organized by friends and relatives of Mr. Duggan. Naturally, they demanded justice.

Unfortunately a series of disturbances occurred soon after that. Subsequent media reported attacks were carried out on police cars, a double-decker bus and some local businesses and homes.

As of this post, it’s been the 3rd night since the rioting began. Law enforcement is on-going.

Essentially this is like the 1992 Los Angeles riot after the Rodney King incident in 1991. People used that as an excuse to riot due to alleged race bias in handling Mr. King’s case, his being a Black.

What made this disturbing are reports that many of these rioting incidents were organized using communications and social media, namely Blackberry Messenger broadcasts and some Facebook pages.

(Research In Motion, the maker of Blackberry, is said to be cooperating with police officials on this.)

I was aghast to see them calling for…literally…rioting! Without linking to any of them, I’ll show a pair of examples:

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I can only shake my head after reading such comments. I later just closed and logged out of them.

Occasionally, social media was used to call people to action on positive, helpful causes like the Red Cross or alleviating hunger in some areas. With this, it showed how it was also utilized to incite people to essentially cause material harm and damage.

Times like that would probably make you think that either those people shouldn’t be online engaging in social media, or places like Facebook should do something about them. I’m sure Facebook has some policies addressing potentially legal issues like this, though it’s not always easy trying to address them quickly.

Unfortunately there’s practically no way to keep such people out of that. Or even if so, there are arguably free-speech issues involved if ever.

Goes to show that if like-minded people wish to spread their message to others, they will find a way. Sadly, social media can help make that easier for them.

For me, I really hope you won’t have to engage with them.

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