Joe Bruno on the Mob – British Prime Minister David Cameron Considers Banning Social Media

I have mixed emotions about the article below.

Of course, British Prime Minister David Cameron should do all he can to stop the ridiculous riots that are plaguing his country. These creep rioters are not trying to make a political, or sociological statement. They are crooks and thieves, plain and simple. If this happened in America, the National Guard, locked and loaded, in addition to the local police forces, would be out in full riot gear, squelching this riots in any way possible, before more innocent people were looted, or even seriously hurt.

However, in Great Britain the average policeman on the street is not allowed to carry a gun. Cameron muttered something inane about shooting “rubber bullets,” but they are not as effective as real bullets, which may be desperately needed to stop the burning of stores and buildings, and the riots in the UK in the past few days.

According to Cameron, “Many of the riots were either organized on or spread via messages on Twitter and Facebook. BlackBerry’s private group messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), appears to have played a powerful role as well.”

So now Cameron is considering shutting down all social media sites in the country.

No Facebook. No Twitter. No smart phone messaging services.

Opponents of Cameron’s plan plead that social networking is actually helping the police, by pinpointing where riots and looting are about to take place, so that the police can respond before any great damage is done.

There are no First Amendment Rights in the UK. In America, what Cameron proposes would certainly not pass muster with the “freedom of speech” crowd, or with the United States Constitution.

But what if it were a national emergency? What if by shutting down social networks, the government can save lives and property.

Good questions. I wish I had the answers.

The article below appeared in the New York Daily News.

Prime Minister David Cameron considers banning suspected criminals from social media

BY Anjali Mullany

Thursday, August 11th 2011, 4:02 PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the possibility Thursday of a government clampdown on individual users’ social media access as authorities try to put a stop to a spree of riots.

Cameron announced the possible move, which has sparked alarm among Internet-rights advocates, during a statement to Parliament.

“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,” Cameron said.

Cameron’s statement came after days of violent rioting and looting have rocked London and several other British cities.

Many of the riots were either organized on or spread via messages on Twitter and Facebook. BlackBerry’s private group messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), appears to have played a powerful role as well, according to reporters like the Guardian’s Paul Lewis, who received riot-rousing BBM messages from tipsters.

Cameron’s comments touched off a firestorm of criticism on Twitter. Many social media enthusiasts from around the globe drew parallels between the possibility of social media censorship in the U.K. and ongoing Internet shut-downs in North Africa and the Middle East – including a current Internet cutoff in parts of Syria.

“Rumor has it Cameron wants to quench social media to stop rioters from communicating. That is sooo Syria…” wrote Anders Sikvall in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Egypt, Syria…UK?” wrote Bill Nobles, a Democratic candidate for the Florida House of Representatives.

Londoner Debbie Le’cand tweeted: “Cameron, don’t you dare touch our social media, as Egypt, Syria, China, et al. have done, if you want to keep your job. Get a grip, man.”

Peter Bradwell of the Open Rights Group told the Daily News that British Foreign Secretary William Hague “recently criticized oppressive regimes for trying to control the Internet. So it’s a little rich to propose vague new powers to control social media in the U.K.”

“The actions of a couple thousand people should not lead to the curtailing of communications for the remaining population,” added Bradwell.

“It is important to remember the many, many positive uses of social networks, from reporting on the location of trouble through to the organization of clean up efforts,” said Bradwell.

Privacy advocates have been on alert since the riots began last weekend. On Monday, BlackBerry U.K. tweeted: “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

That statement led to public speculation that BlackBerry’s parent company, Research in Motion (RIM), might hand user data over to the British government.

The Guardian reported that British Home Secretary Theresa May plans to meet with RIM, Facebook and Twitter as the U.K. government considers options for exerting greater control over social media in times of chaos.

Blocking individual users’ access to social media won’t be easy, even if British authorities decide to pursue that route. It is easy to create new social media accounts using different email addresses, IP addresses, Internet service providers, and devices.


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