Google, Twitter Tools Helped Protests

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Student protesters last week turned to social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, to co-ordinate their mass demonstration in Westminster, U.K. and other areas.

Google Maps was also used extensively as protesters pinpointed what was happening and where.

The sites were used equally by the police, who watched for information on the protesters' plans. Police officers were present in large numbers around the planned route and at changed locations.

The demonstration, which in places turned violent and led to police cordoning off parts of central London, was held in protest at the near trebling of university fees to £9,000 a year. The change was narrowly passed in a controversial vote in the House of Commons the same day.

The extensive use of social networking sites to co-ordinate and track demonstrations comes in a week when Twitter and the blogosphere were alive with comments on US ambassadors' cables leaked by Wikileaks. Blogs and forums are also being extensively used to co-ordinate hacking attacks on businesses unwilling to work with the whistleblower website.

Students have claimed they were making easy use of social media and Google to co-ordinate their actions.

"A few days ago I suggested the protesting students could do with some kind of "anti-kettling app," to outwit the efforts of the police to stop them protesting," said Ben Goldacre on his blog.

"It turns out I was over engineering things in my head. The students on the anti-fees protests in London are now using this simple Google map:"

Meanwhile, as the protests started, blogger Laurie Penny wrote on Twitter: "And they're off. The noise is incredible. Taking over the whole road." Others updated on Twitter under the hashtag #fees.

This story, "Google, Twitter Tools Helped Protests" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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