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As businesses struggle to figure out how to use social media, young people around the world are demonstrating that they already have a firm grasp on its power.

The London riots have been fueled by people communicating via Twitter, among other vehicles, I’m sure.

The downfall of several dictatorial governments within the last several months has also been driven by revolutionaries who used social media to inform and motivate others into action.

Twitter and Facebook have also helped in the onset of flash mobs – some of which have recently taken a bad turn.  A recent Associated Press article states that flash mobs started off in 2003 as peaceful and often humorous acts of public performance, such as mass dance routines or street pillow fights. But in recent years, the term has taken a darker twist as criminals exploit the anonymity of crowds, using social networking to coordinate everything from robberies to fights to general chaos.

Despite all the good things about social media, this could lead to some legislative efforts to regulate social media.  There have already been some attempts.  Do you think it’s possible?

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

5 Comments

  1. Stacey Wacknov says:

    Social media is also a great case study in how to respond to violence or other unconscionable acts. A great example is exactly what’s going on in the UK now, with the countermovement Riot Cleanup. Within hours of the riots, http://www.riotcleanup.co.uk was started as a UK-wide community platform to organize cleanup efforts and — more importantly — give those against the riots a place to virtually gather and safely take action.

    Less than an hour ago, @riotcleanup gave birth to @riotcleanupmanc — specifically for those concerned about the new Manchester riots. Bad action, positive reaction. And something that shows how very GOOD social media can be in our world.

    (Disclaimer: I’m married to a Mancunian and we have a lot of family/friends in the UK. I’m watching this situation extremely closely, on both sides…)

  2. I didn’t think of the crime-fighting aspect of Twitter, as pointed out by @caseychan on http://t.co/IOV8FgU …For better or worse…

  3. Even DJ Kaskade started a riot via one simple tweet (http://huff.to/qZe0RU) but I don’t see how social media could be reined in under legislative efforts to the point that it would prevent a riot. Would it be age restrictions? Could users under a certain age not tweet certain words? Could certain words be banned all together? If so, where has our right to free speech gone? There’s a lot to consider.

    • Stephanie Lough says:

      Kaskade didn’t provoke or encourage the riots, he was promoting a free concert. Perfect example of how this cannot be controlled because who is to say what is deliberate vs what is a result of crowd mentality. Obviously tweets with calls for actions are deliberate, but you’ll always have the people who will just say “I wasn’t being serious” when things get out of hand.

      On a side note, I went to LA the day after the Kaskade riot and had considered changing my flight so I could see the free show. Glad I didn’t!

  4. Seems farfetched, but thet the Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance that would have made it illegal to use social media to organize a violent and disorderly flash mob. The mayor vetoed it.

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