Twitter Can Predict Riots Faster Than the Police, According to New Research

So it's not just for being really mean to strangers?

Contrary to the popular belief that Twitter is solely for people who just HATE everything and everyone, even labrador puppies and holidays, it turns out that it can actually be a very useful tool when it comes to predicting dangerous incidents like riots.

In a new study, researchers from Cardiff University used algorithms to analyze 1.6 million tweets related to the London riots that took place in 2011.

They found that, by scanning Twitter, computer systems could have noticed the beginnings of the trouble in Enfield an hour and 23 minutes before police were alerted to it.

According to the findings, people are increasingly using social media to report incidents before going to the police.

"In this research, we show that online social media are becoming the go-to place to report observations of everyday occurrencesincluding social disorder and terrestrial criminal activity," said Pete Burnap, a co-author of the study.

Despite the findings, the researchers stressed that the computer scanning works best with large scale incidents, rather than smaller or isolated cases and you should still definitely call the police.

"We will never replace traditional policing resource on the ground but we have demonstrated that this research could augment existing intelligence gathering and draw on new technologies to support more established policing methods."


This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

Recommended Videos
View More Articles About:
More Videos You Can Watch
About The Author
Esquire UK Editors
View Other Articles From Esquire
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us