As London prepares for a potential third night of sporadic rioting in the wake of the fatal shooting by police of father of four Mark Duggan, questions are inevitably being asked about the technologies which many believe are to blame.
In a tiresomely predictable backlash, the Metropolitan Police blamed social media this morning for helping groups of rioters to organise quickly and dynamically in a way that police were incapable of responding to speedily enough.
There are a couple of questions that beg to be asked if this is the case: why aren't the police capable of monitoring social media better, and haven't they heard of BlackBerry Messenger?
Starting in Tottenham, the rioting has spread to Brixton, Enfield, Walthamstow and even Oxford Circus, and arrests are being made in Hackney at the time of writing.
To say that it has caught the police by surprise is an understatement, but to blame it on Twitter and other forms of social media is to ignore the underlying cause of the unrest and, quite literally, to blame the messenger.
It also underlines just how far the police have to go before they become social media savvy. Having reportedly just received a four-fold funding increase which will enable the Police Central e-Crime Unit to swell its numbers from 20 to 85, maybe now would be a good time to engage properly with Web 2.0.
The tech vendors have certainly wasted no time in broadcasting the fact that the tools are out there to enable organisations to do just that.
Alcatel-Lucent gets a prize for being the first to ping into my inbox, explaining that its Genesys Social Engagement offering can help organisations monitor social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter in real time.
The tool works for a big brand keen to engage with its customers and prevent bad publicity just as much as it could for the police to track trends and prevent violence.
Not only is the Met wrong to blame social media, though, it is also probably wrong to single it out, after news emerged that BlackBerry Messenger has been a potentially more pervasive tool used by rioters to organise activities.
This encrypted instant message-type service effectively gives its senders anonymity, although it is pretty clear that BlackBerry maker RIM will hand over encryption keys if asked.
It's lazy and ignorant to blame technology for the spread of social unrest. Twitter, social networks and other communications tools have saved countless lives as well as occasionally enabling the sort of mindless violence we've seen in parts of London in recent days.
If it wasn't Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger, people would find another way to communicate and rally. I don't seem to remember web-based tools being implicated in the Poll Tax riots.
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