UK Government Considering Banning Alleged Rioters from Social Media

By Tracey E. Schelmetic August 11, 2011

The damaging riots that took place in London for three night last weekend into early this week are making the headlines not only for the chaos they caused, but for the unusual new way they were “organized” (if a riot could be said to be “organized).

The riots, which began in London but ultimately spread to other cities in the UK, were not spontaneous copycat actions (as riots usually are), but many of the participants used social media to recruit other young people to join the mayhem. Oddly enough, the medium of choice was BlackBerry Messenger, wrote Mashable's Chris Taylor, though Facebook and Twitter reportedly played large roles in spreading information about and incitement to the riots.

Now, Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, is considering banning any individuals accused of participating in the riots from using from social media. In a speech he delivered to Parliament this morning, Cameron said, “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. 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.”

The rioting was apparently provoked by protests of the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four and alleged drug dealer in Tottenham in northeast London. While the riots were initially attributed to anger over police brutality – the circumstances of Duggan's shooting are under investigation – the riots quickly evolved into an orgy of vandalism and looting by youths.

In an attempt to prevent future repeat scenarios, the UK government is reportedly working with social media services to discuss “options” in the case of future unrest, reports Mashable. Cameron plans to hold meetings with executives from Facebook, Twitter, Research in Motion to discuss their “responsibilities” in the prevention of future incidents, reported the UK newspaper The Guardian.

Do the social networking companies have any responsibilities when it comes to bad behavior on the part of their users? What do you think?

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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