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Tweeting the London Riots

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 831
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6083.831

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People have rioted since the dawn of civilization. But online social media may be radically changing how riots form and spread. Until recently, it was difficult for a large crowd of strangers to coordinate, be it for peaceful protests or violent riots, without their message being overheard. Now, with diffuse conversations of millions of people taking place on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, messages can be directed to many other people at no cost. A growing group of social scientists are tracking online conversations, hoping to make sense of how they affect real-world events.