UK police aim to adapt to Twitter-led protests

London:  Authorities will have to move faster to help contain the increasing number of protests being organised and run through social media sites, Britain's police inspection body said today.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary said police forces would have to focus on speed and communication as demonstrators turned to Internet sites such as Twitter to coordinate their actions.

"Large numbers of protesters can be organised in hours and change their focus in minutes through the use of social media and mobile phones," the report said. "Those responsible for commanding events must plan with this adaptability in mind."

The report singled out UK Uncut, a protest group organised literally overnight by Twitter users upset at the government's plans to slash public spending and perceived tax avoidance by major British companies. The group - which targets retailers with fast-moving demonstrations - has used social networking sites to help coordinate their actions, including a live mapping service intended to help protesters dodge police cordons.

The inspectorate said the agility of these new protests meant that police would have to work within "tighter time frames, in a way that responds as swiftly as possible to events."

It also said that police forces - many of whom have long been working to expanded their online presence - would have to consider how best to communicate with tech-savvy protesters.

Britain has been hit by an increasing number of protests as reforms intended to rein in the country's deficit start to bite. A wave of student-led demonstrations last year in which social media played a minor role were largely peaceful but often ended violently - one with a damaging riot at the high-rise building housing the ruling Conservative Party headquarters, while during another protest a Rolls Royce carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked.
Story First Published: February 09, 2011 20:30 IST

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