Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

Summary: Most Britons believe the web should be limited in times of civil unrest. But not everybody agrees; particularly the younger generation.

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More than two thirds of British adults support the shutdown of social media sites during periods of civil unrest, a poll has found.

This could add fuel to the flames in the aftermath to this summer's riots across England's cities, amid comments made by prime minister David Cameron where he considered 'turning off' the UK web to quell ongoing civil disorder.

(Image via Flickr)

Security firm Unisys surveyed 973 adults. 70 percent of all respondents, including those who "completely" agree or "somewhat" agree, that during outbreaks of civil unrest, social media sites -- including BlackBerry services -- should be temporarily shut down to prevent coordinated criminal activity.

46 percent agreed that governments should have 'open access' to data on social network users, to prevent organised and co-ordinated crime, with slightly less at 42 percent believing that sites like Facebook and Twitter should know more information about users' before allowing them to join.

But a major discrepancy appears between generations, with 18 to 24-year-olds showing the greatest resistance to online measures, with the over-65s, often not a prime demographic for using social media.

However, a joint study between the Guardian newspaper and the London School of Economics (LSE) found little evidence to tie Twitter and Facebook to the riots. BlackBerry Messenger was however found to be tied closer with instigating violence during the riots, than any other service.

Legislators, particularly during recent times where social media was blocked by governments in the Arab Spring uprising, as well as the BART cell-phone blocking in San Francisco, are treading carefully to ensure that they are not found to be 'hypocritical' on the world stage.

Police are allowed, under UK's Civil Contingencies Act, to shut down access to a website or service, but are not allowed to snoop on private social media traffic without a court order.

But it is not social media that fuels riots, civil unrest or violent disorder: it's people, with technology acting as the conduit to behaviour. Let us not forget that the collective effort of Facebook brought together hundreds of people to clean the streets of London following the riots.

Last week, the UK government was accused of 'double standards' over Cameron's words, compared to the statements made by politicians, that the British web would always be free and open.
Yet, one breath of hope regarding the UK's recently enacted online copyright infringement law, the Digital Economy Act, widely regarded as a 'rushed through' bill and heavily influenced by copyright enforcing lobbyists, is seen vastly in negative light amongst the British public.

Most believed that access to the web is a 'universal right', and illegal file-sharers and downloads should not be cut off from the web. The Act can be used to ban persistent offenders from using the web.

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12 comments
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  • Sounds like Cuba

    Good luck with that. Say Hi to Castro.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      Give the United States some time... we'll be there soon too. I'm a liberal Democrat, but whether Dem or Rep, government almost always demands and gets more power, not less. The Patriot Act was the beginning of the end for liberty in our Country.
      Edesw88
  • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

    Remember remember the 5th of November.
    olternaut
  • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

    God saves Big Brother!
    DickCheney777
  • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

    People really are short-sighted fools
    Bodazapha
  • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. "

    B. Franklin.

    Oh, wait...
    WindowWasher
    • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

      @WindowWasher This is exactly what came to my mind when I read the title of this article. Glad someone posted it up!
      JazzDemon
  • People have different opinions and POV's

    when it's their house or car being burned to the ground during civil unrest, so I can see their point.

    Many here speak from the advantage of never having that happen to them. What would their view be if they came home to find everything they ever had, a lifetime so to speak, gone because a bunch of people didn't like the local bank policy, and used social media to burn down the neighborhood?
    William Farrell
    • Well said!

      @William Farrell <br><br>If Twitter, Facebook, or Blackberry Messenger were being used to coordinate riots, looting, or local criminal activity in my area, you darn well bet I'd be in favor of temporarily shutting it down.<br><br>Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and anything else "social" is something I could easily live without.
      jasondlnd
    • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

      @William Farrell Im certainly not going to blame Facebook/Twitter for Riots that is one thing im pretty sure about.

      And as I said earlier, short-sighted and foolish. Once Govt controls destructive riots, they will NOT stop there - look at history, the more freedom you hand the Governments, the more they will try to take.
      Bodazapha
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  • RE: Two-thirds of Brits support Facebook, Twitter shutdown in future riots

    There is was and will be no Evidence that RIM Blackberry users instigated riots in the UK. What the users were guilty of is being Middle class workers, stranded in shops and Businesses with a means of communication too secure for comfort for a Police force more interested in social control than keeping the peace.
    L1ma