In the "Be careful what you wish for!" category, first we had the Arab Spring, which was considered to be a positive development for the Middle East – in the West, anyway. Now we have the UK riots – and the reaction is entirely the opposite.
With the Arab Spring, social media was hailed as a catalyst to facilitate needed change. And with the UK riots? Social media is being disparaged as – you guessed it – a catalyst to facilitate anarchy.
That's the problem with revolutions; perspective is skewed based on which side of them you're on.
What's more interesting to me is the difference between the vehicles of change. With the Arab Spring, it was Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. With the UK riots, it's Blackberry Messenger (as if Blackberry doesn't have enough public-relations issues right now, including losing yours truly as a customer).
What's driving this decision? Economics, for one (Blackberries are cheaper in that region) and secrecy (BBM is private). I don't want to belabor the point – people died in both riots – but we should endeavor to understand these issues.
If this were happening in the United States, we'd be arguing whether this was a Constitutional violation of the Brandenburg standard. And while we argued, the FBI would be accumulating electronic evidence.
You may consider yourself to be on the 'right' side of the revolution, but make no mistake; either way, someone is tracking you. This will make a big difference if, in the end, you find yourself on the 'wrong' side.