Over 1,000 citizens have been arrested for violent crimes and dozens of police officers were injured during the riots in London. The riot started last Saturday when 5 police officers allegedly shot and unlawfully killed Mark Duggan, a Totenham resident. As the riots worsen and the civil unrest heightens, officials are blaming social media.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter are now under the microscope. But really, is social media really to blame? These allegations rooted from London riots news and updates spreading like forest fires on Twitter and Facebook with corresponding photos and similarly disturbing statements like plans of attacks and security threats. Officials say that social media is not helping, instead, it triggers more violence among people.
To alleviate the situation, the government devised a daunting plan which involves banning certain social media sites on specific users. This big step, even though blocked access is just temporary, needs a lot of work to implement successfully.
After the announcement of the plan, many people now ask, “Is this the right thing to do?” It is remembered that social media played a positive role during the Middle Eastern turmoil and campaigns on Saudi women’s rights to drive. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped to identify those responsible for the riots in Vancouver after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. It even helped in connecting separated families during civil unrests in Libya. Many foreign overseas workers were able to restore communication to their loved ones on the aftermath of Japan’s destructive tsunami.
In a message to the press, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that, “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 social media sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.” Nobody knows yet how the London mayhem will end but this step orchestrated by the government will surely step on freedom of expression and public privacy intervention.