Stealing crisps

Both rioters and police have turned to the web as riots and looting continue in Great Britain

As the London riots entered a fifth night and spread to other parts of England, some Britons are turning to social media to organize cleanup efforts.

Monday morning the @RiotCleanup Twitter page boasted 50,000 followers and was broadcasting cleanup locations and times. Others were posting information under the #riotcleanup hash tag:

“Meet in Wolves City Centre tomorrow 9am by Man on Horse. Bring broom, bin bags, cleaning equip. It’s about loving the city,” Arun Arora (@RevAun) of Wolverhampton tweeted in what was a fairly typical post on the #riotcleanup tag.

Similar efforts have been launched on Facebook and other social networks. A newly created Tumblr “Catch a looter” has been set up to help identify lawbreakers in photos posted online.

After early success organizing by using BlackBerry’s instant messenger services, some rioters stopped using BBM following reports the police are monitoring messages sent by the private network and that Research In Motion was cooperating with law enforcement. That led to an attack by hackers on RIM’s BlackBerry blog.

Using social tools as part of their response, the Metropolitan Police are posting CCTV screen captures of looters in action to Flickr, asking the public to provide information on persons sought for questioning. Police are also reportedly scouring photos tweeted by looting rioters in an effort to make arrests. 

Redditors have a common sensical message for Londoners. A top rated post on the site today is titled “People of London, instead of taking pictures of burning cars and building – take pictures of Looters faces.” As midnight approaches in London, the post has prompted nearly 1,300 comments.

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