Causes of the riots: Old truths and new technologies | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian
Eleven years ago fuel protesters held Britain to ransom, and it became a commonplace to account for their success in terms of the new-fangled mobile phones which lorry drivers were using to text message one another. A generation before, the crackling cassette recordings of Ayatollah Khomeini’s harangues which circulated in Tehran were said to have played no small part in fomenting the Iranian revolution. In an earlier epoch, the development of Dutch presses and distribution networks which churned out “libelles” targeting French royalty was, according to some historians, the catalyst for the storming of the Bastille.
Today Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry are commanded to attend a Home Office summit for earnest discussion about the role their networks played in the spasm of criminal disorder that gripped English streets so recently. The hysterically harsh sentences already handed down in one or two cases of pro-riot social messaging is a reminder that moral panic can often follow hot on the heels of new technology.