Daily Telegraph says police were prepared for trouble in Birmingham after a campaign on Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger and Twitter warned of violence and encouraged others to get involved. Rumours spread that trouble would start at 18:00 BST with an out-of-town leisure complex, believed to be Star City, a possible target. West Midlands police posted a message on Twitter at around 17:00 BST yesterday in response to rumours of planned disorder.
The Guardian reports that the most up-to-the-minute rallying in the London riots took place not on Twitter or Facebook "but on a more covert social network: BlackBerry Messenger".
The Daily Telegraph says the BBC was criticised for political correctness last night after continually referring to the yobs rioting across London as "protesters". It said "two days after a peaceful protest over the death of suspected gangster Mark Duggan in Tottenham ended, the corporation was still using the term to describe violent looters".
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will today announce the 65 towns and cities that are in the running to host new local television services. Former chief executive of Channel 5 David Elstein told Radio 4's Today that Mr Hunt was "pushing a rock uphill".
The Times and Daily Telegraph have attacked football's governing bodies as the lockout of sports journalists from matches over media accreditation disrupted newspaper reports over the weekend, reports the Guardian. Journalists from national titles, news and picture agencies were locked out of all but a handful of the 36 games, after talks broke down on Wednesday night between the Premier League, Football League and a media coalition.
Two images of the riots in London feature on many of the front pages, as reported in the BBC's newspapers review. One shows a man, wearing a hood with a mask to cover his face, walking in front of a car burning out of control. The other is of another masked rioter, carrying a can of strong lager, as he walks past a burning car.
However, BlackBerry reportedly wouldn't be drawn on just what kind of assistance it is willing to offer to the police. The company offered no further tweets, no further comment.
Messenger communication is encrypted and the Guardian says BlackBerry had declared in the past that it is unable to unencrypt BBM messages. Perhaps the chaps at LulzSec could help.
While BlackBerry was helping police with its inquiries, the deputy assistant commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, Steve Kavanagh, reportedly stated that "really inflammatory, inaccurate" Twitter postings were, in large part, the cause of riots that have seen several areas of London ablaze and residents of two London districts told to leave their homes.
"Social media and other methods have been used to organize these levels of greed and criminality," he told a press conference. He also reportedly declared that those who posted such messages risked arrest.
Yet the more one reads these references to technology, the more one wonders whether, as usual, the focus is on the machine, rather than the individual behind it. It's odd to read headlines such as the BBC's "Is Technology to Blame for the London Riots?", as if technology can force you to do anything more than cease reading books and newspapers.
Even if you happen to adore social media, you can decide what you want to look for and find whatever it is that makes you feel better.
Within that same BBC post, for example, there are beautiful nuggets that purport to show how technology is being used to inflame the riots.
For example, the Daily Mail reported that one tweet read: "'I hear Tottenham's going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll." This suggests the poster, called AshleyAR, was ready to punch and riot. Yet the Mail, which happens to have a certain political agenda, reportedly managed to omit the last part of the tweet. It actually read: "Watch me roll up with a spud gun."
If Twitter is truly the barometer, then perhaps it's worth mentioning the hashtag #stoprioting. Then there's the hashtag #LondonRiots, where wisdom and garbage are being disseminated in the same social basket.
Who, though, could not be moved by this from poster Lulu Rose: "The Youth of the Middle East rise up for basic freedoms. The Youth of London rise up for a HD ready 42" Plasma TV #londonriots."
Technology does have a negative role--when those who use it have a negative purpose. In a literal sense, it helps them with that purpose. But does it really give them that negative purpose?
If you rely on technology for your information, here's a selection of information, courtesy of posters to the #londonriots hashtag. You decide whether they make you feel good or bad.
Firstly, the Turkish community of Dalston, London, took one look at the rioting thugs and chased them away.
Another tweeter helpfully offered a link to a YouTube video from Sky News, which I have embedded. The reporter asked one of the looters what she thought she was doing. "Getting my taxes back," she said.
Someone called @ged suggested that BlackBerry should simply shut down its Messenger system. Another tweeter, Esme Vos, offered this: "bankers looted the economy, now rioters are looting shops #londonriots."
Technology works for those we agree with and it works for those we don't.
You decide what role social media played in these riots. It will depend on your politics, your sympathies, and your attitude toward technology. But technology didn't cause anything here. It just made some things a little easier. Isn't that what it was always supposed to be for?