Would Britain Really Ban Social Media in the Wake of Riots?

Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Business News, Legal Matters for Business, Social Networking [ 0 Comments ]

As the streets of London and some other British cities appeared calmer than earlier in the week following major riots, some are wondering how much of an impact social media played in fanning the flames.

To that end, British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking a closer look at sites such as Facebook and Twitter, wanting to see what if any role they played in the mayhem. In Cameron’s eyes, such sites that allow a “free flow of information” can at times be an issue. Cameron also is looking at Canadian-based Research in Motion (RIM), which makes the popular BlackBerry.

During an Aug. 11, address to Parliament, Cameron noted, “Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.”

Cameron (pictured) pointed out that government officials in tandem with authorities will “look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.” British officials say that the four evenings of riots, which were reportedly fueled by the fatal police shooting of a man last weekend, led to more than £100 million (U.S. $161 million) in damages.

Reports indicate that a large number of British rioters utilized BlackBerry Messenger, a free, private instant-messaging tool, to congregate. Twitter and Facebook were used as well, although those sites have also been put to use in organizing cleanup efforts and calls for peace.

Those opposed to any efforts to censor social media in the UK say banning such tools would be an assault on the entire idea of freedom of speech.

The thought of such a ban here in the U.S. if likewise riots took place seems unfathomable, but we’re living in a day and age where just about anything is possible, even what many would view as the government overstepping its bounds.

In an ironic twist, many of the same individuals who used social media sites to organize the riots, ended up eventually being arrested after their words and photos were discovered by authorities on Facebook and Twitter.

Much like when Canadian authorities used social media to track down rioters in Vancouver following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Scotland Yard made a number of arrests of individuals suspected of inciting the violence across England by using BlackBerry Messenger, Twitter and Facebook.

So, do you think social media venues could or should be banned in Britain if authorities get wind of criminal activities being planned through such tools?

Photo credits: adelaidenow.com.au and uk.ibtimes.com

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