Social media as an instrument for organizing mass riots in the United Kingdom in August 2011

Cover Page
  • Authors: Katkina AN1
  • Affiliations:
    1. Department of the State Policy in the Sphere of Education of Children and the Youth Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation
  • Issue: Vol 15, No 3 (2015)
  • Pages: 80-90
  • Section: Articles
  • URL:
  • Cite item


Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have recently become very popular and turned to be an effective instrument for achieving political goals. However, the social networks’ impact is rather ambivalent: on the one hand, social media form specific political actors and support self-organization and civil movements; on the other hand, social media reinforce destructive and aggressive manifestations with the pronounced criminal purposes, e.g. social media ability to disseminate information among large groups is used to organize mass riots. The article analyzes one of the recent and significant events largely provoked by the social networks - mass riots in the United Kingdom in August 2011 that were originally a reaction to the murder of M. Diggan by a police officer who tried to arrest him as a suspect in drug trafficking and possession of weapons. The way events developed into mass riots was the result of discussions in social media and use of social networks to coordinate joint actions of mass riots participants. The article provides a detailed description of the events and authorities’ actions to overcome the crisis and prevent such riots in the future, thus making some conclusions about the nature of social media impact on the politics.

About the authors

A N Katkina

Department of the State Policy in the Sphere of Education of Children and the Youth Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation

Author for correspondence.


  1. Berseneva A. Operativno-obysknye meroprijatija // 11.08.2011. URL:
  2. V Londone arestovano 160 chelovek. Besporjadki rasprostranilis' iz Tottenhjema na drugie rajony britanskoj stolicy // Golos Ameriki. 08.08.2011. URL:
  3. V londonskih besporjadkah pojavilsja pervyj pogibshij // 09.08.2011. URL:
  4. Grabezhi i pozhary ohvatyvajut London i drugie goroda // BBC Russian, 09.08.2011. URL:
  5. Kirkizh N. Londonskie huligany chuvstvujut sebja svoimi v socsetjah // First News. 11.08.2011. URL:
  6. Kjemeron trebuet vyseljat' pogromshhikov iz goskvartir // Russkaja sluzhba BBC. 11.08.2011. URL:
  7. Massovymi pogromami zavershilsja final Kubka Stjenli v Vankuvere // Pervyj kanal. 16.06.2011. URL:
  8. Mihajlova N., Karelin D., Koshkina A. London mnozhit mjatezhi. Ulichnye besporjadki perekidyvajutsja na novye britanskie goroda // 09.08.2011. URL: social/2011/08/09/3727853.shtml.
  9. Moldavskie demonstranty zakidali kamnjami rezidenciju prezidenta // Izvestija. 07.04.2009. URL:
  10. Ryzhkov M. Obshhestvennaja komissija pri MVD Velikobritanii somnevaetsja, chto Mark Daggan pervym obstreljal policejskih // ITAR-TASS. 09.08.2011. URL: c21/201121.html.
  11. Skotlend-Jard ob#javil na uchastnikov besporjadkov v Londone «internet-ohotu» // Rossijskaja gazeta. 10.08.2011. URL:
  12. Smotrov A. Britancy organizovali v Twitter kampaniju po uborke ulic posle pogromov // RIA Novosti. 09.08.2011. URL:
  13. Ubijstvo bolel'shhika «Spartaka» i besporjadki v Moskve: hronika sobytij // RIA Novosti. 11.12.2010. URL:
  14. Arthur C. Twitter now has 10m users in UK // The Guardian, 15.05.2012. URL:
  15. Barnett E. London riots: Twitter says all tweets must continue to flow // The Telegraph, 09.08.2011. URL:
  16. Booth R. Government plans increased email and social network surveillance // The Guardian. 01.04.2012. URL:
  17. Cameron D. David Cameron’s statement on disorder in England // Conservatives, 11.08.2011. URL: on_disorder_in_England.aspx.
  18. England riots: Twitter and Facebook users plan clean-up // BBC News England. 09.08.2011. URL:
  19. Espiner T. ISPs kept in dark about UK's plans to intercept Twitter // ZDNet UK, 20.02.2012. URL:
  20. Flickr: Metropolitan Police’s photostream. URL:
  21. Halliday J. David Cameron considers banning suspected rioters from social media // The Guardian. 11.08.2011. URL:
  22. Halliday J. London riots: BlackBerry to help police probe Messenger looting «role» // The Guardian. 08.08.2011. URL:
  23. Halliday J. London riots: how BlackBerry Messenger played a key role // The Guardian. 08.08.2011. URL:
  24. Halliday J. London riots: police to track rioters who used BlackBerrys // The Guardian. 09.08.2011. URL:
  25. Hughes M. Scotland Yard considered shutting down Twitter // The Telegraph. 16.08.2011. URL:
  26. Identify London Rioters. URL:
  27. Idle N., Nunns A. Tahrir Square tweet by tweet // The Guardian. 14.04.2011. URL:
  28. Internet. Home Department // 09.02.2012. URL capabilities%22#g94403.r0.
  29. London riots: Parliament to be recalled // BBC News UK Politics. 09.08.2011. URL:
  30. My Clever Agency. How Are British People Spending Their Time On Facebook? 24.01.2013. URL:
  31. Ofcom. Communication Market Report: UK // Research Document. 04.08.2011. URL:
  32. Operation Withern. URL:
  33. Oral statement to Parliament. The Queen’s Speech 2012. URL:
  34. Sweney M., Robinson J. Broadcasters defy Cameron’s call to hand riots footage to police // The Guardian. 11.08.2011. URL:
  35. The Media Show. Reporting the Riots // BBC iPlayer. 10.08.2011. URL: iplayer/episode/b0132l70/The_Media_Show_Reporting_the_Riots.
  36. Tumblr. Catch A Looter. URL:



Abstract - 572

PDF (Russian) - 142


Copyright (c) 2015 A N Katkina

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies