Although the rioting that has blighted parts of the UK earlier this week has subsided in recent nights, Prime Minister David Cameron is continuing what he termed the “fight back” against criminals indulging in threatening and anti social behaviour by considering a social media ban.
Addressing Parliament yesterday (11th August), Mr Cameron stated that “everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck 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 and when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.”
In order to discuss the role of social media in the London riots and other disturbances across the UK, Mr Cameron has organised a meeting with representatives of social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. Also attending will be Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry and its messaging service that many rioters are believed to have used to organise their antisocial activity securely.
The Prime Minister has stated that the government is already working with the relevant authorities to consider whether it would be right to stop “people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
The proposals have drawn widespread support in the UK. The opposition’s shadow secretary of culture, Ivan Lewis, stated that: “Free speech is central to our democracy, but so is public safety and security.
“We support the government’s decision to undertake a review of whether measures are necessary to prevent the abuse of social media by those who organize and participate in criminal activities.”
Critics have pointed out that Facebook has already shut down pages that have incited violence and that the service has also been used to help persuade people join the cleanup operation and to show their condemnation of the riots.
Furthermore, the language used by Mr Cameron does not make it clear if the ban on social networking will apply only to those looking to organise violence, or whether it would be a blanket ban affecting the whole of the UK population.
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