What's been missed in London?
What's been missed in London?As riots continue across the UK, we look at some of the misconceptions about the looters and social media's role.
Al Jazeera's ongoing coverage of the London riots has highlighted how mobile networks, particularly Blackberry phones, were used to mobilise looters. But social media has also been used to spread rumours, creating misinformation about what was happening on the ground.
One example from Stream contributor and Twitter user @LiveJ shows a widely-circulated image that appears to show a military presence gathering in London. One tweet accompanying the photo read: "The Army is assembling in Bank." But this image actually turned out to be a photograph from Egypt. Another photo, retweeted by Brian Stelter of the New York Times, seemed to show a tiger on the loose in the streets after escaping from the London Zoo. Stelter began his tweet with "Unconfirmed" and he was right to suspect it, as the picture was quickly disproven.
The spread of misinformation has seemed not to be limited to social media however. Some in the news media have described the looting in the riots as the work of organised 'gangs', but that has been disputed by several sources including a post from Gavin Knight of the Guardian – who pointed not to gangs but to cuts to youth services as a root cause of the unrest.
On Al Jazeera, Daniel Hind works to correct some common mistakes. "It is wrong to say that the riots are apolitical," he writes in an opinion piece. "[T]here is no single meaning in what is happening in London and elsewhere. But there are connections that we can make... We have a major problem with youth unemployment.… Economic inequality has reached quite startling levels…The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious."
We spoke with Aaron Peters on The Stream about the riots and the role a programme called "Operation Trident", a unit of the Metropolitan Police in London that specifically targets gun violence in the city's black minority community. Peters highlighted the effect of "stop and search", which he claims is misused by police to harass young minority men. He also pointed out that the riots in London were not only a race issue, but also a class issue. "The tragedy in Britain is that in many areas, these are one and the same thing… Race often means class."
Read more: Nothing 'mindless' about rioters – Opinion – Al Jazeera English
These are some of the social media elements featured in this segment of The Stream.