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Londoners take to social media outlets during the riots

London is seeing the worst riots in 30 years

By Jeremy Kirk
August 9, 2011 09:54 AM ET

IDG News Service - The photograph shows a hooded young man looking toward the sky just after he apparently threw something. Close by, a Citroen compact car is completely engulfed in flames.

The image is one of thousands of terrifying photos circulating in printed media and online outlets such as Facebook and Twitter following three nights of some of the most intense rioting in London in 30 years. The riots started on Sunday night following a peaceful march protesting the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man by police.

London fire
Cars burn on a street in Ealing, London. (Toby Melville / Reuters)

The photo has been posted on the Tumbler blogging platform on a page called "Catch a Looter," a grassroots attempt to help police identify some of the more flagrant participants in the riots who have set buses on fire, looted shops and clashed with police.

"Catch a Looter" is also posting videos, including the horrific one of a young boy sitting on the ground bleeding. He is helped up by one man, who pretends to aid him while another opens and then surreptitiously steals items from the boy's backpack. Blood stains the sidewalk as he stumbles away.

The site's creator, who did not want to be identified, said he wanted "to do something to help fight back against the opportunistic thieves and thugs who are ruining people's lives casually and entirely for their own benefit."

"My intention isn't to start a witch hunt or vigilante group, merely to gather all the photos in one place for ease of use," he said.

U.K. police and government officials have stressed that in the coming days they will seek to identify and prosecute people believed to have taken part in the city-wide rampages. Social networking and media sites will play an important role.

London Riots: Related Blogs

On Tuesday, the U.K.'s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) began posting images from closed-circuit TV cameras of people suspected of looting on Flickr. The effort is part of Operation Withern, the service's investigation into the riots.

"We have been making arrests all evening and have a team working during the night examining CCTV images," according to a statement on Tuesday from the MPS.

The efforts are a more positive spin on the use of technology amid the disturbances. As with any major news event, Twitter is filled with posts, many labeled with the hashtag "#londonriots."

Ben Firshman, the co-founder of a company that supports hosting for applications written in Python, built an application that plots tweets with the #londonriots hashtag and places them on a Google map.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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