Flash Robs and the Darker Side of Human Nature

Free twitter badgeImage via WikipediaAfter weeks of Twitter fuled violence, rioting and crime, the British government is considering shutting off social networks. With similar problems, the mayor of Philadelphia is appealing to youths shape up combined with increased “stop and frisk” policies. Just as networks like Twitter and Facebook can be used to create art and topple governments, it turns out that they are good at quickly, nearly spontaneously  organizing gangs of criminals. The same technology that is used to form learning networks is the same technology that youths are using to organize robberies. I have links to the relevant stories at the bottom of this page. I originally wanted to join in on the rhetorical fun and talk about the “darker side of social networks” but this is really, once again, a case of the media missing the point. It is not the technology: the same press that publishes the works of Ghandi also can publish “Mein Kampf.” The same phone technology that can announce a Nobel prize can direct a terrorist attack. Guess what? The problem is not the technology and stopping the technology will only spur further innovation and technological change that the authorities will understand even less. Attempting to close down communication is a lot easier than addressing poverty, unemployment, and the escalating crime rates. The technology is already here to monitor twitter and track who is tweeting and what they are tweeting. I am not condoning this, but it shows you how far behind the curve the British and Philadelphia are that their own police are not using Tweeps Around type software as a crime radar. Twitter is basically an open channel. Why aren’t there flash mobs to prevent crime? Why do the police still look like they are barely above the phone-box-on-the-corner level of technology? But before they attempt to boot-block communications, I hope they do something about the roots of these crimes and address the needs of these desperate communities.

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