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Essex cops slaps cuffs on social media riot crusaders

Fiendish Facebook users suspected of inciting violence

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Eager Essex fuzz have cuffed three locals lads suspected of using social media site Facebook to whip gangs of teenage marauders into a looting frenzy.

An 18-year-old man from Grays and a 16-year-old from South Ockendon were taken into custody yesterday morning, where they remain, and a 17-year-old who was caught at around 5pm was released on bail until 23 August while investigations continue.

The boys in blue said the yoofs tried to drum up Facebook support for a gathering at an unnamed location somewhere in the county, best known for slappers and boy racers.

"If people use social networking sites inappropriately to stimulate rumours we will do our best to track the individuals down and if they have committed offences under criminal law we will deal with them," said acting chief constable Maurice Mason.

Police forces have been criticised for their inadequate response to the unprecedented riots that started in London at the weekend and spread across the rest of the country on Monday and yesterday.

Gangs of looters used Twitter and Facebook to tip off other like-minded thugs to trash and burn High Streets and make off with goods. The use of Blackberry IM has also played a part in some of the co-ordinated attacks.

Some 50 officers from Essex police, like other forces across the country, were drafted in to help the Met, as no large scale disorders have yet occurred in their locale; just four incidents have been recorded so far.

But Mason insists they are operating a zero tolerance policy toward anyone inciting violence on social media sites or in the physical world.

"We will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in Essex," he said.

The Reg reported earlier today that a Scottish teen was also arrested for using Facebook to try and stir up trouble in Glasgow, even though the city has yet to witness any violence; well, outside of the norm anyway.

Hampshire police are also clamping down on kidults who use social media to encourage copycat riots and have urged parents to keep a close eye on the surfing habits of their children. But they seem to be taking a "stern words" approach rather than making arrests.

"Some of these threats are being made by teenagers who don't quite realise the implications of their words," said chief superintendent Karen Manners.

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