Twitter users overwhelmingly focused on the U.K. riots last week, and many of them were highly angered by and critical of the chaos. While much of the mainstream news coverage involved an exploration of the causes of the anger behind the riots, social media users were much more intent on denouncing the destruction that left five people dead, more than 3,100 arrested and an estimated £200 million worth of property damage

For the week of August 8-12, the British riots were by far the most discussed subject on Twitter, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The subject was so dominant that it was among the top five stories each day last week and appeared on the top story lists six times more often than the next largest subject, Twitter itself.

In addition, the five most popular news-related videos on YouTube last week were all related to the riots.

This report marks the second week of PEJ’s new methodology for determining the most discussed stories in social media. (For a detailed explanation of the process, click here.) In addition, this analysis of Twitter utilizes computer technology from the media monitoring firm Crimson Hexagon that was used to examine the key components of the Twitter conversation during the seven days following the start of the riots.

The unrest, which lasted five days, began during an August 6 protest outside a Tottenham police station following the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot and killed two days earlier by police during an investigation into crime in the black community. After several hours of protests, violence and looting broke out. Some present said the impetus for the rioting was an incident involving a 16-year-old woman who confronted police, but was attacked with shields and batons. Others attributed it to a more aggressive crowd that arrived after the initial protest.

The analysis using Crimson Hexagon found there was little concern about the causes of the riots and the possible grievances of those involved. Indeed, that accounted for only 8% of the conversation on Twitter.

By contrast, 42% of the conversation on Twitter was critical of what was taking place. Less than a third, 30%, was made up of neutral comments or straight details without injecting opinion.

On Twitter, where users are limited to 140 characters, tweets typically involve the passing along of information and news. However, in this instance, there was far more condemnation than the straight conveyance of details.

“Low lifes in north london rioting, how stupid are these people, they’re causing destruction to other life!” declared Chloe Short.*

“Riot implies some sort of cause, whereas this is just hooliganism and looting. Let’s not dignify these cretins without a cause,” posted @redndead.

Riots in the U.K.

Several popular links helped spark the Twitter conversation about the rioting last week. One was a pictorial on the Boston Globe web site showing images of the clashes with police and the ongoing destruction. Another was a BBC report that quoted two participants as saying they were involved because they were showing police and “the rich” that “we can do what we want.”

Also popular was a YouTube