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In several countries, there's the practice of censoring foreign social media and other types of websites, presumably due to the possibility of the information on them would cause social instability inside the country.

In my country, China, the state promoted core values include "harmony". I think the officials deem it important is partly due to ideology, and partly because the actual cost (both in money and in personnel) of maintaining control in a dire situation.

I want to know, is this fear of foreign social media justified by any example? Is there a case of an out-of-control riot in a western democracy with a good human right record, and where participants are mostly non-immigrants, and where control of social media (leaving aside free-speech concerns) could have prevented it?

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    I just remembered a case of murder during the campaign for Brexit, where a woman pro-EU politician was gunned down. – DannyNiu Jul 31 '17 at 11:57
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    There are multiple countries censoring social media or Internet sites in general because they deem them a threat to the state, is there a particular one whose reasoning you want to focus on? – IllusiveBrian Jul 31 '17 at 12:42
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    On many criteria, China is only nominally socialist, at this point. At best, it's a blend. – user4012 Jul 31 '17 at 13:42
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    Why all the downvotes? If the question is looking for purposes behind a national censorship. That moves it enough outside opinions.. I think it's a good question and the person asking it is sincere. (Perhaps it was worse before editing), but as it stands, I think it's a good question. – userLTK Aug 1 '17 at 8:39
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    The Chinese Communist Party are trying to control how you think, there is nothing more insidious. "harmony" is the destruction of contrarian thought. Free yourself Danny. The Ideas the state deems most "unharmonious" are the very ideas one should tread carefully towards and with an open mind. – easymoden00b Aug 1 '17 at 14:41
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Here is an example of riots that emerged after group of anti-immigrants used social media to assemble in the city center in Leipzig.

The protests erupted after the Cologne attacks by immigrants on women leaked to the mainstream through social media. At the beginning German government tried to cover up the Cologne incident. The police reported in an official statement that the night of the attack went peacefully with no incidents. Only after people started reporting the incidents through social media the authorities admitted that the attacks happened.

Merkel is actively working to limit any anti immigration protests as they will not be given permission to assemble. They instead used social media to coordinate protests, something German authority want to avoid by controlling the internet.

One could only speculate that the censorship is linked with German government inability to keep possible incidents similar to what happened in cologne under control.

Another would be isolating people that want to protest Merkel policy on immigration.

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    Dare to delete Philipp? Social media used to call out german government lies and organize the protests? Can you handle this? You germany as negative example? – user14816 Aug 1 '17 at 12:58
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    No, I am not deleting this, because it is actually an answer. Not a good answer, and one which puts quite a lot of blame on Merkel which would actually be deserved by Heiko Maas and on the various federal state ministers of interior, but an answer nevertheless. – Philipp Aug 1 '17 at 13:03
  • I always wonder what the difference is between Germans, Brits, and swedes as the same thing is happening in these countries however Swedes want even more refugees and Brits voted to leave the EU but no real protest I can find. I suppose that's a question on it's own – SCFi Aug 1 '17 at 13:29
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    ‘At the beginning German government tried to cover up the Cologne incident.’ [citation needed]. ‘Merkel is actively working to limit any anti immigration protests’ [citation needed]. ‘as they will not be given permission to assemble.’ [citation needed]. ‘something German authority want to avoid by controlling the internet.’ [citation needed]. ‘One could only speculate that the censorship is linked with German government inability to keep possible incidents similar to what happened in cologne under control.’ [citation needed]. – Jan Oct 17 '19 at 15:50
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    ‘Another would be isolating people that want to protest Merkel policy on immigration.’ [citation really needed]. – Jan Oct 17 '19 at 15:50
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Off the top of my head, I’m not aware of any riots or protests that directly led to fatalities. Cases that result in fatalities usually did not originate as a large demonstration or riot and conversely most large-scale demonstrations/riots are often under just enough police control (e.g. separation from counter-protestors) to prevent fatalities from happening although injuries, throwing stones and similar occurances do happen more frequently.

Furthermore, the requirement of ‘caused by social media’ is difficult to prove. At best, the organisation of a demonstration (or subsequent riot) is facilitated by social media but as large scale demonstrations or riots are not a new observation (indeed, they date back to at least 1789 to allude to just one of the most prominent in history) so they certainly happened prior to Facebook/Twitter/messenger apps and the like.

If we relax the conditions a little bit, somewhat famously in Germany the (originally weekly) Pegida demonstrations began in 2014 with a closed Facebook group of the founder Lutz Bachmann. In a more recent example, the Chemitz protests, which led to a number of injuries, were also most likely co-organised via social media, likely on both sides. To give an example from the other side of the political spectrum: the far-left protests and riots during the G20 summit in Hamburg in all likelyhood had a social media component to their organisation. Again, no fatalities but over 2000 crimes committed according to the police reports.


It bears mentioning that at least part of the fear is supported by research: in 2018, Vosoughi, Roy and Aral analysed the spread of a number of news stories across Twitter between 2006 and 2017 and found that

Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and [that] the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.

(Source: S. Vosoughi, D. Rob, S. Aral, Science 2018, 359, 1146–1151. DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9559.)

Their work considered practically every rumour that spread a type of ‘news’ (‘We also purposefully adopt a broad definition of the term news. Rather than defining what constitutes news on the basis of the institutional source of the assertions in a story, we refer to any asserted claim made on Twitter as news’) and they determined whether news was considered to be true or false by checking six independent fact-checking organisations which agreed on levels between 95 % and 98 %.

Thus, ‘false stories [which] inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies’ travel faster on Twitter and have a greater potential to spark protests.

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Is there a case of an out-of-control riot in a western democracy with a good human right record

Yes. There are plenty of riots you can point to (most of the examples i can think of are from radical left, but I would be willing to entertain the idea that it's possibly due to my own bias in information intake and not because radical left is more prone to violent riots). Specific to your question, ALL of the examples below were heavily facilitated by social media use.

I won't point out earlier riots in 60s and 70s since you asked about social media. I also didn't cover outside US, partly due to being more familiar with US politics and partly because this already shows more than enough examples to fit what you asked.

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    I don't think this answers the question. You should add sources that state that social media - and specifically foreign social media - was primarily responsible for these (note also that the question is about fatal riots, which these were not). Just to take one example: The radical left in Germany was plenty capable of violent protests before social media; is there any reason to think that it played a relevant role this year? – tim Jul 31 '17 at 14:01
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    @userLTK the asker wanted examples of western democracies that don't censor social media. China was a counter-example. – Communisty Aug 1 '17 at 12:00
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    @userLTK - sorry, you mis-read the question. "Is there a case of an out-of-control riot in a western democracy with a good human right record, and where participants are mostly non-immigrants" – user4012 Aug 1 '17 at 12:48
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    I think maybe you misread the question, as well, since the title specifies "fatal riot caused by social media." – PoloHoleSet Aug 1 '17 at 14:35
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    @userLTK: So the (mostly non) students wanted people to hear only their own alternative facts, and not Ann Coulter's alternative facts as well? Doesn't seem like free speech was the goal there :-( – jamesqf Aug 1 '17 at 19:06

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