There's a really excellent example of the way in which Google Maps can be used quickly and effectively. The student #fees protest created an excellent map which clearly indicates the position of different police elements and those of protesters:
There's a whole bunch of issues that come out of this. Firstly, a reliance on Google, rather than any alternative. Google - by not doing anything about this use - is complicit in the protest, and I wonder just how much pressure it would take to get them to withdraw use or block this particular map? How quickly would protesters be able to re-create this somewhere else?
Another issue is that it wouldn't be difficult to create a private version of something like this, with limited access, so we've then got social media resources supporting protest, which is pushing the social media envelope even closer towards anarchy (I don't actually have a problem with this at all, and I often make the point that Web2 stuff is anarchic). Because Twitter is so easy to use, so fast and effective at getting information out there I predict that the use of it is going to absolutely skyrocket with students and younger people who have until now not used it a great deal. How long will it take for the government to catch up with this I wonder?
Can anyone still be in doubt about the use of social media? How long will people still try and brush off Twitter as useless celebrity gossip?