The last few days have been very stressful for UK citizens, primarily Londoners. We’re living in the aftermath of the London Riots, and no one is quite sure how to behave. An eerie calm pervades Oxford Street as armed policeman walk four abreast down the street and muscle bound guards loiter around the front of Selfridges. Shops have started shutting from 2pm onwards and two meetings I was meant to attend were cancelled ‘just in case’. Despite Tuesday night being fairly calm, Monday saw fires and shouts in the town I live in, with hooded figures clearly visible on Camden canal, shouting and throwing things about with more than usual abandon. London has been gripped with a fear that these ‘youths, chancers, looters’– call them what you will, have suddenly seized control and all rules don’t seem to apply anymore.
Whilst I have no doubt this hysteria will soon be under control, what I have been amazed by is how quick the interweb has been at chastising and identifying the culprits. In the past few days numerous websites have been created all with the sole purpose of identifying these people, and-so far- not one of them is in anyways a commercial enterprise; just a pure and good samaritan endeavour to try and help people and shopowners get some justice for the abuse of their property.
Twitter has also been a goldmine of support with the Twitter hashtag #londonriots providing up to the minute information of what was taking place (though some was erroneous data- no animals escaped from London Zoo) and a new Twitter hahstag #riotscleanup and #riotcleanup. It’s great to see how the web community has banded together to support eachother- both online and IRL with meetups arranged to help clear the damage. Here’s my roundup of some of the London Riots websites that have been created. Spare a moment and take a look- you could really make a difference.
This website was created a few days ago, but already looks pretty slick. People email in images or upload them to their Facebook page and then you can scroll through them and see if you can identify anyone. If you do there’s a form to fill in where you submit details of the rioter you recognize and then the creators of the site will use this- anonymously- to contact the police. I don’t really know what Zavilia stands for as it’s a less obvious riot site title,and Dictionary.com tells me it’s not recognized. Hmm- maybe the creators just liked the way it sounded? If it’s slang for something else, I’m just to old school to recognize it.
This website has roots in Hot or Not (remember the hours spent playing on it?) but takes the approach of ‘Rioteer or not’. You simply ‘Next’ them (Chatroulette stylee) till you find one you recognize and then you fill in their name, info and any related details. It’s all anonymous (yay) and whilst it won’t lead to a prosecution, it may lead to an investigation. Plus, some of the images are surreal- who looks that excited when robbing stores like Poundland or Blue Inc?
Catch a Looter
This is a Tumblr site which collates images of rioters from the web. They source them from Twitter, online newspapers etc and doesn’t let you report anyone you recognize to them- they just direct you straight to a Crimestoppers number. The site does seem to be slightly biased against those of African American descent, and some pictures also look like they’re of innocent people- just because a woman looks gleeful when packing bags of crisps in her car doesn’t make her a criminal.
Riot Clean UP
As well as websites highlighting some of the atrocities there has also been a positive rise in goodwill and community spirit. Riot Clean Up is one such website- supported by names such as Neil Gaiman and Simon Pegg- which help organize concerned citizens in local communities to clean up the areas they live in. This is a lovely way for people to show they care about where they live, and to draw a firm distinction between citizens and rioters, and how they act in their hometown.
Have you been impressed by how people have reacted on Twitter or Facebook- and have you seen any other great sites which help identify the looters? Let me know in the comments below.
I’ve just been alerted to a new and rather entertaining Tumblr called Photoshop Looter. Here you can see images that people have edited from the UK riots- which make all the looters look rather more cuddly and cute than before. I love the ET image- some of the Photoshopped pics are priceless.