How social media were used to spark riots in the Netherlands | NOW


Since the introduction of the curfew last Saturday, several places in the country have faced looting and riots. Rioters mobilized on social media, but how does such a thing work and why are looting broadcast live?

Apps like Facebook, Telegram and Snapchat are calling on people to protest against curfews. But those riots got out of hand in several places in recent days. Violence was used against police officers and shops were looted.

People who don’t know each other find like-minded people on social media. “We all have a need to be seen and to belong to a group”, says Mark Deuze, professor of Media Studies at the UvA. Especially now that there is a lockdown and a curfew, those feelings are being suppressed.

“There are many people frustrated, anxious and furious about the virus and that is very normal,” says Deuze. But when people who use violence as an outlet get together, they incite each other to take action.

‘There is always a group that thinks it is cool to riot’

The riots of recent days are not necessarily ideologically motivated, says sociologist Don Weenink of the UvA.

“What you saw during the protests in Amsterdam that got out of hand is that a very large group of people in the Netherlands see the corona measures as an intensification of the control by the state, and that they actually believe that corona is being used to control people. and manipulate it “, says Weenink.

“In their wake, the rioters may have come to think it is legitimate to use force, because the government is not listening anyway, according to this group.”

Although there is genuine anger and fear from the protesters, excitement certainly plays a very large role among rioters, says Weenink. “There is always a group in society that thinks it is cool to riot. It has something fascinating, a great attraction, which has to do with a strong sense of community at the time.”

Rioters drag bicycles during Sunday’s riots in Eindhoven.


Rioters drag bicycles during Sunday's riots in Eindhoven.

Rioters drag bicycles during Sunday’s riots in Eindhoven.

Photo: ANP

Rewards and assignments for looters

Rioters broadcast the looting live on various social media channels. In reactions you can read how viewers give orders to the looters. They also give each other points as rewards. Researchers now call this ‘gamification’.

“The riots are starting to look like a computer game Fortnite, where the player and other gamers decide what will happen, “says Beatrice de Graaf, professor at Utrecht University and security expert.” This game element already existed, even before the advent of social media. At the time, the Provo riots were also intended as playful violence to challenge the authorities, although this goes a step further. “

According to De Graaf, ‘challenges’ become part of the riots. “People find a group through social media to join and those groups can compete with each other. When rioters from Eindhoven see what is happening in Urk, they say: ‘What they can do, we can do too’.”

Rioters speak of ‘moral vacation’

Weenink, who previously also conducted research into Project X in Haren, among other things, speaks of a ‘moral holiday’ for the rioting young people. “A situation in which a group, through a very strong group feeling, develops other norms that strongly contradict the prevailing morality. A temporary suspension of norms, that is the idea of ​​a ‘moral holiday’.

That brings a moment of great excitement and dominance. “At the same time it is also a kind of highlight for these young people. That makes it all the more difficult to digest.”

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