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Riots in Britain reflect today's social ills – and social media

Britain's urban riots represent both frustration with economic hard times and common criminality. And they once again demonstrate that social media can be used for good or ill purposes.

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A year from now the world will fixate on London as the city hosts the Summer Olympics. On Aug. 9, 2012, the 200-meter and 800-meter sprint finals will take place at London’s new Olympic Stadium before 80,000 spectators as well as millions of others worldwide.

Thank goodness that’s still 365 days away. For the past three days, the world has been grimacing as it watches London for an altogether different reason – the sight of the worst binge of urban rioting and looting the city has seen in more than 25 years.

Tonight 16,000 police are expected to take to the streets in an effort to finally quell the unrest, which has included widespread looting and setting fire to buildings and vehicles in several London neighborhoods.

The disturbances have begun to spread to other British cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, and Bristol. More than 500 people have been arrested, filling local jail cells to capacity. So many fires have raged so intensely that the situation has drawn (perhaps a bit breathlessly) comparisons to the German aerial blitz during World War II.

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