Following the intense rioting in London this week, social media and online services are now in the firing line from politicians. There have been fresh calls for Twitter and RIM’s BBM service to be suspended or blocked, as both have both been used to help organise and coordinate riot activities.
We’ve already highlighted this earlier in the week, but with fresh calls today from David Cameron and the Home Security for bans it seems worth bringing up again.
Cameron has stated today “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.”
Despite these statements it is not the services at fault, but the people using said services. Having BBM and Twitter shut down would be incredibly short sighted. Even if they were to be periodically suspected, the rioters would find other ways to communicate. As the Telegraph states, “…we shut them down at our peril…It is easy to blame these ‘new’ platforms, but it’s also short-sighted and quite frankly stupid…Twitter and BBM are no different to text messaging, phone calls, emails and even megaphones.” In short, if you want to riot, you will find away.”
More to the point, any suspension of the services would also put a halt to the benefits being brought to victims and local communities, such as the area clean ups organised on Twitter, and the frequent updates and alerts within local areas the micro-blogging service allows.
Rather than targeting the services being used by rioters and non-rioters alike, the government should focus on tackling the underlying reasons behind the rioting – inspiring young people to be passionate and invested in improving their local community, and themselves. They might even want to look into how they might apply social media to good effect here – rather than snatching it away.