The UK riots that have taken place over the last week, starting in London and spreading to other areas, have shocked many who thought they would never see such mindless violence on the streets. The government has been criticized for not doing enough but today Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that part of the plans to deal with rioting could include a block on social media.
Here at OSM we’ve looked at the part that social media may have played in the riots asking whether they were fuelled by social media and also told how Twitter was one of the most popular platforms. We also noted the unfortunate timing of the new Facebook Messenger app aimed at rivaling the BlackBerry BBM service, which came exactly at the time when instant messaging was taking much of the culpability for the rioting. Today in the recall of the House of Commons it appeared that a social media shut down was being considered as part of plans to prevent further rioting.
According to Tom Phillips over on Metro, David Cameron said, “Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.” There was no outline for how any block might be established or whether for example it would apply to whole social networks or individuals being shut down but the Home Secretary is due to meet with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry representatives to look at the part that messaging had to play in the riots. It’s not yet clear whether any social networking shut downs by the government would also apply to messaging services.
David Cameron went on to say, “We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.” Some arrests have already been made of individuals inciting violence using social media but it’s not fully known yet just how much of the blame can be laid at the door of social media.
It does seem though that just as social media has made important changes in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, enabling people to come together to fight a cause, it can also be used in a negative way. We should point out though that Facebook and Twitter were also the perfect platforms for uniting people to volunteer in the clean-ups from the riots so we should not be too quick to jump on the general consensus at the moment that social media is mainly to blame for what has happened in the U.K.
We’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think any clampdown on social media and networking would stop future rioting, or might it just inflame the situation further? Let us know with your comments.