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London riots: How social media real-time monitoring could have helped police


09/08/2011

By Marcus Leach

Could monitoring social media activity and acting on real-time intelligence have assisted Met Police in responding to the escalating violence in London?

Manish Sablok, Head of Marketing, North Europe, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise thinks so. Current systems technology allows organisations to systematically monitor social media in real-time and then distribute the relevant information for immediate action.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Twitter and other social media sites were to blame for fuelling the excessive levels of looting and violence in the city.

"Social media and other methods have been used to organise these levels of greed and criminality and we need to adapt and learn from what we are experiencing," he said.

According to The Telegraph, Mr Kavanagh said the outbreak of disorder that followed a peaceful protest on Saturday in Tottenham, north London, could not have been expected.

Yet, the levels of activity on Twitter on Saturday night would indicate that, with the help of social media monitoring, the Police might have obtained more valuable insight into what was happening on the ground during the very complex situation as it evolved.

According to blogger Fraser Nelson, the riot was tweeted extensively on Saturday night, whilst BBC News hadn't interrupted their normal programming to report on activity. As Nelson puts it, even the broadcasters were 'playing catch-up with Twitter'.

Yes, the violence spread rapidly with the help of social media, but we have many commercial customers who use tools such as the Genesys Social Engagement solution to manage the spread of sometimes damaging stories tweeted and posted on social media sites.

They have integrated communication tools which include monitoring social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter in real-time, which enables them to take appropriate action, fast and in real time.

So as Kavanagh explores how the Met Police could adapt and learn from what was experienced as organised violence via Twitter, the Met Police could adopt a proactive approach well proven in the commercial market to look at monitoring, prioritising and taking action on social media posts.

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