Posted August 11, 2011 9:42 am by with 10 comments

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It’s been almost two years since I warned of a potential scenario that involved the US government taking over Twitter.

I portrayed one scenario where things would escalate enough that the POTUS would have to take action….take over Twitter. Well, it appears the UK government is pondering something similar, in light of the riots in England.

According to TNW, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement:

“Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.  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.”

Shortly afterwards, the UK’s Home Secretary announced she would be meeting with Facebook, Twitter and the makers of the Blackberry.

Scary huh? No, not the riots. Those aren’t scary, those are a down right disgrace. No excuses, right?

Well, it seems like our western governments seem to turn a blind eye, when social media is used to create unrest in the Middle East. Heck, there are rumors that those talks with social networks are more of the encouraging kind.

Is there a double standard? When does the use of social media switch from “fueling democracy” to “fueling riots?”

This post could get ugly, so I’m going to stop now, with a question.

Do we want to live in a world where Big Brother has the power to stop our use of social media?

  • Nice post, Andy. We ran a similar one yesterday that wondered why social media was so praised during the Arab Spring and so condemned in the UK. Thought you might be interested:

  • Typical response – they refuse to do what is necessary to stop the riots. They focus on the petty “crimes” that responsible people don’t even know they are committing. They come after you when you defend yourself, and what’s the solution?

    A massive crackdown on the tools that threaten their power.

    What London is rediscovering is that the government has not obligation to protect your property, and the barest of obligations to protect your life. That we should allow people who can’t prevent riots to gain more control is utter folly.

    The answer is to use social media to solve our problems ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s shopping deals breaking the backs of a monopoly or an oppressive government seeking to limit what you read.

    We are responsible for shaping our own future.

  • Excellent post Andy, I posted yesterday that it is disgusting that the police allow mobs of criminals to cause such chaos because no one in government has the balls to take the tough action necessary to stop the riots. But only too quick to prosecute any law-abiding property owner who should have the audacity to try and protect his property or his life.

    You are absolutely correct about the hypocrisy of encouraging the mobs in the Middle East and North Africa to use social media to achieve their aims, then whine about it when it happens at home.

    If the police had used the necessary force and yes I mean shooting a few criminals with real bullets, instead of making excuses for totally unacceptable criminal behaviour and complaining about social media, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damages and the disruption of thousands of peoples lives would have been avoided.

    If the Western governments don’t wake up and deal with criminals, it will force law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, that will be ugly.

  • Steven Weldler

    Scary stuff. Always ALWAYS err on the side of freedom. If Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry go along with this willingly it would be a real disgrace. Thanks for the great post.

  • I would not call it a double standard. I view it more as a struggle to understand what impact social media has on a modern society and how that impact should be responsibly managed. We have to experiment at both the grassroots level and the government level with management. The process of course invites open dialog but without that experimentation social media has a very high potential to run rampant and cause more harm than good.

    The Internet itself is still undergoing social experimentation but we’ve seen through the backlash in anti-bullying and pro-privacy laws spreading around the globe that a great deal of harm has come out of the widespread and unregulated use of the Internet.

    People should be afraid of this experimental process. They should participate in it responsibly, speaking frankly about both the pros and the cons of doing nothing or doing something.

  • David

    Are the Middle Eastern protesters being compared to the UK rioters or those who are trying to protect themselves, their families and businesses from the former?

    In either case, a double standard would assume that the motives and actions of the Middle Eastern protesters are morally equivalent to those of the UK group being compared.

    Saying that the rioters are morally equivalent with the protesters in Egypt, Lybia and Syria is questionable at the very least. But this seems to be what the author is saying.

    • I don’t think the actions are the important part here. If they were, then the Lybian government would surely accuse people of rioting and breaking the law. Who wants to be the judge of what’s moral/legal?

      The question is, is it OK that the government can take control of social media when it suits it?

  • Mitch Kordonowy

    Andy is making a simple logical deduction, that is as sound as vibration.
    If morality were a simple issue there wouldn’t be scores of different religions, and/or philosophies.
    And no, I do not want to live in a world of Government controlled Facebook and Twitter. I would simply succeed from using it.

  • Unity and planning against an issue/leader/group/event will occur anywhere. It will happen through social media just like it occurs through every other medium. The government should absolutely not attempt to exert their power over social media users who speak their mind–whether it’s bad or good. What happened to freedom of speech? Before you know it we’ll be living in 1984 with Big Brother watching our every move.

  • DustMan

    It’s my opinion but if they want to advertise riots like that they should fully expect the police to show up to the party as well. If you can’t beat em join em. They would have to have their heads in the sand to not realize their advertising is a positive aspect. But of course that means they should be willing to get up off their duffs and enforce the law when the law is being violated.