Twitter Sparks Spontaneous London Cleanup

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After another night of looting in London, a Twitter campaigner has mobilised volunteers for the clean up

Social media is driving a spontaneous cleanup of London this morning after the capital was again struck by looters overnight.

Since #riotcleanup was coined late last night by Worthing-based artist Dan Thompson (@artsistmakers), it is now trending top on Twitter, the dedicated @riotcleanup account has gained more than 55,000 followers, and counting, and has recruited volunteers from almost every affected area.

Power For Good

A day after social media and BlackBerry Messenger were fingered as key organisational tools for looters, Thompson has been co-ordinating the citizen-powered cleanup with people on the ground via Twitter from his home office, 40 miles away from London.

Volunteers cleaning up in Hackney

“I’ve got a whiteboard up in my office scribbling down cleanup locations as they come in,” he told eWEEK Europe UK.  “It’s phenomenal. It started late last night and I’ve been up most of the night doing it.

“I’ve used hashtags before and I just think they’re phenomenally powerful for getting people together under an idea and it seemed a good positive one to use,” he added. “We’ve seen some Tweets from people catching trains into London just to help with the cleanup.”

Between councils and volunteers much of the cleanup, wherever it has been allowed to take place pending forensic investigations, has been completed within just a few hours, according to Thompson and other reports.

Celebrity help

Thompson said among the first people to respond to #riotcleanup were pop star Kate Nash and Sam Duckworth,the front man from band Get Cape Wear Cape Fly.

Duckworth volunteered to create and manage the @riotcleanup account, registered in the early hours of this morning, and is in contact with Thompson from the London Borough of Hackney.

The campaign has earned considerable celebrity support with England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and Shaun of the Dead creator Simon Pegg among those retweeting the campaign to their millions of followers. Ferdinand and Pegg have more than 1.3m followers each.

The related website, featuring meeting times and places for clean up volunteers, crashed under the weight of the traffic this morning following reports on television and radio.

A force for good

“I was absolutely choked by how many people are contributing and doing their bit. It is amazing. It’s so good to be able to prove that Twitter is a power for good,” said Thompson. “It’s a real simple DIY movement.”

Despite some elements of the looters co-ordinating using social networking tools, the potential of these media for good is not in doubt.

Rioting in Vancouver after the city’s hockey team lost the Stanley Cup final provoked a similar response in June when fifteen thousand citizens signed up to a Facebook page calling for cleanup volunteers.

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