British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

Summary: British PM David Cameron moots social media bans for those involved in rioting, that has plagued the British streets for nearly a week.

SHARE:
21

British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a statement to the House of Commons earlier today, made reference to and mooted the possibility that social media could be 'disrupted' or turned off if riots continue.

Services such as Facebook, Twitter and crucially BlackBerry Messenger -- which has been used by rioters and looters to organise disruption across the British capital and other cities in England -- could be restricted in a bid to prevent further violence; present day or in future warranted situations.

(Image via Flickr)

Speaking in the House of Commons, David Cameron said: "The free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill".

"So, 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".

This comes on the same day that two men from Lancashire in the north of England have been charged over inciting others to commit violence over Facebook.

Home Secretary Theresa May is also to speak to the industry -- including Facebook, Twitter and the BlackBerry maker Research in Motion -- regarding social media's usage and responsibilities during the riots. She will discuss with Cabinet colleagues whether the police need "any other new powers" to deal with ongoing or future riots and widespread disorder.

Many MPs for the Liberal Democrats, the party in coalition with the current Conservative-majority government, are sceptical over the standing of civil rights and liberties if social media is disrupted.

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert MP said that "clamping down" on networks could have serious effects, while David Cameron responded by noting that BlackBerrys and closed networks "needed to be looked at".

The Guardian discusses this further. Speaking to Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, the prime minister "risked attacking the fundamental rights of free speech".

Conservative Tobias Ellwood MP said in Parliament that police should be given the option to switch off cell network masts "and other social networks" used to co-ordinate trouble, violence and disorder.

David Cameron's words may come as a surprise, considering it was Britain who was first to condemn the use of limiting social media in Egypt during the uprising earlier this year.

Related content:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

21 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Perfect way to breed more rioters

    This lugnut has hit upon the perfect formula to breed further unrest and seriously piss off folks that were sitting on the sidelines.

    I mean really. What was this idiot thinking? Oh, right, he wasn't...
    wolf_z
    • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

      @wolf_z

      What counrty do you know that allows people to incite riots through any means? I do think they should hunt them down and bring the full force of the law on them. no need to shut down the whole network.
      PS
      And they should get there butts outside and protest not be couch quaterbacks.
      Stan57
    • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

      @wolf_z No country allows it. But then again Britain was among many countries which have cheering on the rioters in the middle east, publicly and probably covertly supporting them, funnelling money, supplies and even helping to get around the communication blocks, the US gave funding to the BBC to developed measures to do exactly that. It hypocritical to support rioters in other country and then suddenly be against it in this country and support exact means use in those countries to suppress there people in this country.
      Knowles2
      • You forgot a little [i]detail[/i] ...

        @Knowles2

        In the countries you are referring to (such as Iran), it was the government forces who were vandalizing cars and shops to portrait peaceful demonstrators as rioters and looters. You can find plenty of amateur videos on YouTube proving exactly that.

        The whole clamp down on social media was not to prevent the so called "riots", but to prevent those damning news and evidence to get out and go public.
        OldGuru
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    It would be really sad sight for a democratic country like UK to do exactly the same thing dictatorships do. Civil rights are not only to be upheld in the good times.
    SinfoCOMAR
    • Yes, but...

      @SinfoCOMAR
      ...public order still has to be maintained. It's one thing to allow peaceful demonstrations; it's quite another to allow people's homes and businesses to be looted and destroyed.
      John L. Ries
      • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

        @John L. Ries

        Then we should not be criticising other countries for using those exact same measure he is considering bringing into this country.
        Knowles2
      • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

        @John L. Ries
        Taking down any form of communication will not help maintain order. It's like trying to quench a riot by taking down the phone system.... I only see it fueling discontent.
        SinfoCOMAR
  • Uh well how did that work out for Egypt...

    Yup..thats what I thought.
    JT82
  • He may have no choice

    Keeping the peace is job one for any government (and there is a difference between peaceful demonstrations and riots). He might have better success, however, in suspending Habeas Corpus and imprisoning those caught rioting until things settle down. If there aren't laws on the books allowing the Crown to do that, Parliament is fully authorized to pass them.<br><br>Yes, it might cost Mr. Cameron his job, but his primary duty is to serve the public interest, not to further his career, or the electoral prospects of his party.
    John L. Ries
    • Agreed

      @John L. Ries
      I do not believe in punishing 99% of the innocent who use social networking just because 1% are criminals.

      Those who are rioting are not exercising their civil liberties; they are violating the rights of others. I have no qualms about what Cameron and the British government do to punish the guilty, just as long as they punish them severely.

      From what I've heard, punishing them at all would be a good start. The current state of affairs is what happens when a soft liberal government gets permissive with low-life.
      sissy sue
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    Yes, because this worked so well in Libya.
    Snowsong
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    So I hope David Cameron stop criticising China, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and any other country that does the exact same thing.
    Knowles2
    • Again, there is a difference...

      @Knowles2 <br>...between peaceful demonstrations and rioting. Also, I don't think it often happens in the UK that people are punished for speaking their minds. It does happen a lot more often in the other places you mention.
      John L. Ries
    • Don't be shy ...

      @Knowles2

      and don't avoid mentioning Iran. Isn't that the whole purpose of your comments? After all, the Iranian government has been the only government openly supporting rioters by calling them "peaceful protesters".

      Am I the only one who sees the [i]harmony[/i] here?
      OldGuru
      • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

        @OldGuru The "West" has been doing it's part to portray peaceful groups as terrorists. Even groups who never had a TV camera turned on them.
        westks
      • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

        @westks<br><br>I don't doubt that; just remember the McCarthy era, or the US interventions in the past against democratically elected governments in countries like Chile, Iran, Indonesia, ... <br><br>But here we have the most vicious and hypocritical government in the history trying to hijack a tragic situation and push its own agenda.
        OldGuru
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    Nothing that Cameron has said so far is doing anything to calm the situation - no words about tackling the causes of dissafected youth - no words about reducing the ridiculous gap between rich and poor - no word about raising taxes for the better off to provide decent social services - instead all his words are confrontational and nothing makes young people wilder than being confronted in this way. This government is reducing spending on many things that have hitherto kept young people off the streets and given them hope. In the words of two female rioters - many young people blame the rich for everything wrong in this country (they are not far wrong in that) they wrongly assume that anyone running a business is rich which of course they are not. However successive governments have bred a culture which allows peoples success to be judged by material posessions - these kids are bombarded with advertising all the time for things that they will likely never afford. Now I know that does not excuse violence but isn't taking 6 figure bonus for badly running a company we have had to keep afloat just as criminal as someone earning a minimum wage stealing a TV set - the difference is that the government allow one "criminal" to get away things and others not. To try and restrict our freedom to comment on what is going on would be the last straw.
    cymru999
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    So when are they going to shut down the networks that those who wrecked the economy used? News reports reveal the authorities are using the social networks to garner intillegance regarding the riots, I doubt they will shut them down
    westks
  • RE: British PM considers turning off social networks amid further riots

    Doh! What happen to the comment I was typing out. There have been news reports that indicate the social networks are being monitored to gain intelligence concerning the riots, I doubt they will be shutting them down. So when will they be shutting down the networks that where used by those who wrecked the economy?
    westks