Rights advocates are concerned that damage caused by the London riots will be more permanent than the broken glass and burned buildings. The U.K. government is considering blocking all social media communications whenever it thinks people are using them to plan illegal or antisocial behavior.
In a statement to the House of Commons today, Prime Minister David Cameron brought up the idea of a preemptive ban on using 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,” Cameron said. “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 prime minister was not alone in this belief. David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, is obviously deeply involved in the current turmoil since the rioting began in his district. Although the vast majority of his Twitter feed has been devoted to assisting people during this time, he also strongly recommended that BlackBerry’s BBM instant messaging service should be suspended during the civil unrest.
Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, was among the campaigners who spoke out against this approach as an assault on free speech. “The U.K. should not be using the same methods as governments in China, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Making laws in haste, with limited analysis and information, to deal with an exceptional problem is likely to create unbalanced laws and abuses of our rights.”
Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement – http://tinyurl.com/3mz4rle
Open Rights Group – http://tinyurl.com/3tjeq2g
Photo by flickr user hozinja, used under Creative Commons license