The England riots of summer ’11
The government are in talks with Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry about pulling social network services from the internet in times of trouble.
‘We must remember, cause a fuss before somebody thinks of blaming us’.
Blame Canada from South Park
This is the worst kind of reactionary nonsense in the long tradition of erroneously pinning all of societies ills on horror films and computer games.
Let’s not look at the class divide which is worse now in britain than it was at the time of slavery. Let’s ignore the sense of entitlement drummed into everyone in the 80’s thanks to Thatchers slavish devotion to the free market theories of Milton Friedman. Everyone is entitled to a flatscreen tv. Be it looter, or politician (like Gerald Kaufman, who claimed nearly £9,000 for one at the taxpayers expense)
So this time, Twitter and Facebook are in the firing line alongside BBM which, in their reactionary, screw-the-facts way, they haven’t bothered to find out isn’t actually a social network.
How do they even think this is possible? Twitter and Facebook are both based in the US and therefore are outside the reach of UK law. They both appear on the open internet so can’t be shut in the UK without being pulled worldwide. Unlikely, so that only leaves censoring the internet. That worked out so well for Syria and Egypt. I’m sure China can give a few pointers too.
What do they think ‘social’ actually is? It’s communication, pure and simple. Every phone capable of accessing Twitter and Facebook also has email, sms and phone capabilities. They can’t shut them all. If I was blocked from Twitter, and wanted to communicate with friends, I’d email them. Block me from one email provider, i’d sign up with another. Take my phone off me, I’ll phone them from a pay phone.
As an idea, it’s completely unworkable. Yet our government will spend a fortune in taxpayers money to give the impression they are doing something. Something to distract us so we don’t start looking for deeper causes that might end up a bit closer to home than they would feel entirely comfortable with.
People have rioted long before social networking existed. They managed to communicate their intent just fine. As is always the case with draconian measures like this, it will be the innocent, law abiding people who suffer while the criminals find a workaround and do what they want anyway.
There is much anecdotal evidence of innocent people using twitter to find out where the riots were so they could avoid them. Without social networks, they would have inadvertently stumbled into the middle of trouble.
Before David Cameron had even deemed the riots worthy of returning home from his holiday, the #riotcleanup hashtag had already allowed hundreds of people to organise a grass roots cleanup operation. Without Twitter, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but even if it had, would have taken days or weeks to organise rather than just a few hours.
This will never happen, but they’re hoping it will distract us long enough for the fuss to blow over.
Also see +nathaniel tapley s brilliant open letter to david Cameron’s parents for an argument put far more succinctly than my witless rants can manage.