Toronto G20 and Social Media

Yesterday in a tweet, Now Magazine in Toronto said this past weekend’s G20 in Toronto will be the most documented event in the city’s history – all in part to social media.

As someone without a TV, I was reliant on the news from Twitter and blogs to update me on the protests happening downtown. Visiting dedicated news sites came after the fact: The Star, The Globe and Mail and the National Post all did great coverage of the events – each dedicating a blog to report on the event – both from inside the walled fortress and outside – but I went to their sites after already hearing the news on Twitter for a more indepth review and a collection of some fantastic photojournalism.

Two Twitter feeds from public broadcasters took me right from my safe couch just west of the rioting and protests into the downtown core and the Eastern Ave detention centre: @kimfox from CBC and @spatikin from TVO. CBC had their own blog, tweeted, opened a Flickr account for viewers to send in their photography from the event… in all, really embraced hearing what was happening from areas they might not have access to – a great job.

Steve Paikin in particular managed to use the 140 characters allowed to tweet explosive play-by-plays and comments about a peaceful sit-in he attended on the Saturday night. Reading his tweets was a play-by-play of what was happening, and his tweet at 10:02 pm “i. gone police escor me away” drew me away from the standard picture of the burning cop car into real concern – did they really arrest journalist and very peaceful guy Steve Paikin?

Fortunately they didn’t –  but without him tweeting, we would have never learned about the freelance writer who has done work for the Guardian, who was allegedly beaten by some police, and how Ontario’s new sweeping police powers this weekend affected one a Liberal candidate who tried to help Premier McGuinty get his current job. Since those tweets, Paikin has been called in by many bloggers and radio shows to recount what he saw – something that may have had less of an impact if it weren’t for the immediacy of Twitter.

The Toronto Police tweeted as well – some call to action tweets to get people to report on those who cause damage to property along Queen St W and Yonge and College streets. But also, as a way to RT all of those people who supported their actions this weekend. As the Toronto Police are now learning, however, a RT doesn’t ignore the criticisms or the viral effects of a video post where protestors were chased after apparently singing O’ Canada and then sitting down on Queen W, or the police apparently firing on a protestor when she turned her back to them.

Tamera Kremer’s tweet “@torontopolice – assume ur just PR but really infuriating you retweet & respond to those who praise you while ur community cries out” speaks to what organizations need to always consider when they’re in the social media world – you can’t just put a blind on loud criticism and questions by only RT’ing the support. Social media is about dialogue – even answering those uncomfortable questions. She continues: “@torontopolice not really what “social media” is about. Our community has video & pics, where are your responses? We saw it happen.”