Making Northern Ireland safer? Policy responses to young people’ use of social media to organise street riots Dr Paul Reillypr93@le.ac.ukDigital Literacy and Self-Regulation Online,ESRC Seminar Series: ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’University of Leicester18 November 2011
Social media, protest and anti-social behaviour: • Flash mobs in Belarus (2006), ‘Twitter Revolution’ in Iran (2009), Occupations (2011) • Cyberutopians vs cyberpessimists (Shirky vs. Morozov, 2009) • Social media used to coordinate interface violence (Whitewell Youth Mediation Project, 2008; Centre for Young Men’s Studies, 2009) • Media framing of incidents – ‘technopanic’? • NI adults cautious about new media (OfCom 2010 Adult Literacy Audit) • Adolescent practices consistent with rest of the UK (Lloyd & Devine, 2008; Livingstone and Brake, 2010) • Policy focus on cyberbullying, online grooming of children, and preventing access to illegal or harmful online content.
Research Questions: • What is the level of awareness amongst key stakeholders such as community workers and the PSNI about the use of social media sites by young people to plan street riots in interface areas? • To what extent is there a coordinated approach between these stakeholders towards the monitoring of social media sites to obtain information about its use by young people to organise anti-social behaviour in interface areas? • Do these stakeholders perceive that Internet Safety campaigns have been effective in promoting the responsible use of social media amongst young people who live in interface areas? • To what extent is there a coordinated approach between these stakeholders towards the promotion of Internet Safety in interface communities? • Qualitative Study - Interviews (N=10)
Stakeholder awareness about anti-social networking is based on anecdotal evidence that depicts the subsequent violence as non-political: • Rioting is designed to get a bit of craic with the PSNI, young people self-justify their violence, defending their community, feel as if they have missed out on the conflict. (East Belfast community worker 1) • It’s anecdotal, no hard evidence. Kids tell you, teachers, different community workers. (East Belfast community worker 2) • Young youth workers get it [Bebo], and they use it, and they’ve used it for years. Sometimes with community workers, sometimes teachers as well, it’s a bit more this dangerous thing that you need to be very careful with. (North Belfast community worker 2)
Stakeholders do not routinely monitor social media to obtain information about street riots: • They are not allowed to use Bebo on it [computers in community centre], cos (sic) we found them mucking about on it. We didn’t like some of the things they were doing on it. (East Belfast community worker 2) • We keep an eye on what they are using it [Bebo] for. They use it to communicate with people in the same room, not with the outside. (West Belfast community worker 1) • We don’t routinely monitor social networking sites. There are new privacy settings on most and some of this is now deemed private information, therefore we require a specific purpose to be monitoring. (PSNI Educational Officer)
Stakeholders feel that Internet Safety campaigns are effective but may not help reduce anti-social behaviour in these areas: • The public are very receptive to having appropriately trained PSNI officers delivering talks and lessons on Internet Safety. (PSNI Education Officer) • Texting, to a lesser extent social networking sites, are being used to arrange these sorts of activities. (North Belfast community worker 2) • Bebo would be one of the means of doing it [organising street riots]. Mobile phones another one, text messages and stuff. (East Belfast community worker 2)
Conclusion: • There is a multi-stakeholder approach towards the promotion of Internet Safety in Northern Ireland. • Key stakeholders perceive that this approach is an effective and proportionate response to the ‘anti-social’ networking practices of young people. • They believed that anti-social behaviour could be organised via SMS text messaging if sites as Bebo were no longer available. • Future research should explore the perspectives of young people and work of groups such as WIMPS in tackling ‘anti-social’ networking practices.