The science of riots. Can iPhone apps start riots?

Can an iphone app with special audio files be used to start riots?

I really doubt it.

Atari Teenage Riot, a German electronic hard core group, has reportedly had their iphone app delayed for entry into the German iTunes app store.

They claim in their press release that Apple is worried about their app starting riots.

In 1999, Atari Teenage Riot played to a Mayday march in Berlin at which a riot took place. The band members were arrested for “inciting violence”, but the charges were later dropped.

According to the press release:

This audio player includes all the sounds/WAV files that ATR used at the May 1st 1999 demonstration … which trigger hysteria and panic within the audience…

ATR claim that “Apple/iTunes is arguing that they still need to investigate further, because it is legally a grey area and ATR has been indexed in Germany before (censored).”

But what’s the evidence that sounds can incite riots?

In short, I don’t think there is any.

ATR say that that the sounds that cause “hysteria and panic” are “very low sub basses”,” square waves” and “noise sound”.

What they mean by “noise sound” is anyone’s guess. “Square waves” can sound like almost anything and “sub basses” are just very low frequency sounds.

There are a few claims floating around the intertubes that “infrasound” can have strange psychological effects on people. Theres a whole wikipedia page about the topic. But when you look through the references on the page, they all point to dodgy “journals”, blogs without any citations and news articles with no references.

There is research into sonic weaponry, but far from inciting riots, it’s mostly aimed at stopping them.

It really looks like Apple is being dumb and giving ATR exactly the publicity they want.

So what about the 1999 Berlin Mayday riot? My bet is that like a lot of other riots, the cops’ heavy-handed tactics are to blame. Check out the video below and decide for yourself.

[via Concrete Playground, via  Pitchfork]