The Baltimore riots that began in protest to the mysteriously violent death of African-American man Freddie Gray have raised a lot of questions in America about the nature of racism and police behavior. President Obama recently broke his silence on the Baltimore riots, condemning the destructive protests as “senseless.” But the real conversation regarding the Baltimore riots is happening on the internet, via the major social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.
While much of the discussion of the Baltimore riots on social media is merely talk back and forth between outside observers, some people are using social media to directly affect the chaos happening in Maryland. Some of the interventions are making the violence of the Baltimore riots much worse, but some social media efforts are actually working to make things better.
According to Fox News, a data mining firm investigated social media interactions related to the Ferguson riots and revealed that they found 20 to 50 social media accounts being used to provoke and organize violence during the protests. The activity of the accounts was highest during the peak periods of violence in Ferguson, Missouri. From this information, analysts have gleaned that other “professional protesters” are utilizing social media similarly in the Baltimore riots to organize attacks in the name of Freddie Gray.
Threats have been issued via popular websites and other social media platforms. Authorities claim that on Monday, social media users rallied for a “purge” protest to take place at Mondawmin Mall and downtown Baltimore–a concept inspired by the film, The Purge. Similarly, police issued a warning in response to a text message that was sent out, provoking protesters in the Baltimore riots to “kill all white police officers.”
— obsessed_bully (@lastnervebitch) April 28, 2015
But social media is not being used to incite violence alone in the Baltimore riots. Many people are using it to help those suffering as a result of the protests. While thousands of people are helping the cause simply by sharing photos and stories about the devastation taking place to raise awareness and spread the news, others are using social media to evoke more tangible positive change. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook users have been organizing cleanups after breakouts of violence in the Baltimore riots. Others are sharing their personal horror stories from the events, or working through video and photo sharing to hold rioters accountable for their actions.
It may not be a simple yes or no answer as to whether or not social media is helping or hurting the Baltimore riots situation, but it’s clear that the internet is playing an increasingly more integral role in social justice struggles every day.
[Images courtesy of Getty]