British Authorities Considering Pulling Plug on Social Media Sites to Thwart Rioters
In a move reminiscent of what the desperate dictators of the Middle East did in their unsuccessful attempts to quell the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, British authorities are considering pulling the plug on social media sites that have helped rioters organize their chaos.
According to the Raw Story, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament earlier today that Facebook, Twitter and similar sites may be shut down in order to help restore order to the streets of riot-wracked cities across the nation.
“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media,” Cameron said. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. 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. I have also asked the police if they need any other new powers.”
It is unclear how long any shutdown would last or whether the affected sites would be disconnected for everyone or just a targeted list of suspected troublemakers. There have already been numerous arrests of Britons suspected of inciting riots via Facebook.
That the government is even considering such a move has alarmed civil liberties advocates, many of whom believe such drastic measures are more befitting a police state than a Western European democracy.
British authorities have also discussed disabling the messaging function on BlackBerry phones, which have been widely utilized by rioters and legitimate protesters alike.
Cameron has announced that he was considering deploying the military to put an end to the rioting. The Prime Minister also said he will look to the United States for solutions, studying cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles that have combatted gang violence.
The trouble began last week following the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a father of four who police say was a “gangster,” in London. Protests and riots sparked by Duggan’s death quickly spread to other cities, including Manchester and Birmingham.
The British government and most UK and US media have portrayed the rioters as criminals, while social justice advocates point to growing economic inequality, racism and disenfranchisement as the root causes of the violence. There are strong elements of truth to both assertions.
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