It doesn’t take a tech genius to know that sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way the world interacts. Information can now spread faster than at any time before it, and large gatherings can spring up out of nowhere within hours of it reaching these widely used sites.
Unfortunately, that has become a problem in the wake of the UK riots this past week, and Prime Minister David Cameron is looking for a way to control riots by restricting social media. Mr. Cameron is expected to talk with with representatives from Facebook and Twitter in the coming days in order to find the best way of stamping out violent uprisings before they start. It is his government’s belief that if the police had the ability to shut down websites, at least temporarily, during turbulent times, rioters would be less likely to take to the streets.
The proposal does have its fair share of critics, especially over the legality of shutting down social media. Facebook executives commented that during the height of the violence, they shut down any pages that tried to incite looting as soon as they were found, which is network policy. Also, Twitter, the other site that is targeted, has had people burning up the site with pleas to halt the violence, and they’ve outnumbered those calling for it, so the concern is that prevention of riots would be severely hindered if social media were shut down.
If a government is given the go-ahead to shut down social media during times of crisis, regardless of how well intentioned it might be, it opens up the risk of government making up crises just so it can play the media to its advantage. That creates a society where free speech is stifled, which would lead to more violent riots. Government suppression of the media is dangerous, regardless of circumstances, and allowing police to cut off social media would be the first step down a slippery slope of censorship.Published in