The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said that there will be a review into whether to turn off access to social media & phone texting during times of civil unrest.
After days of rioting, looting and violence on the streets of Britain, the Government declared that they will be meeting executives from Facebook, Twitter and RIM (who make the Blackberry) to discuss their ‘obligations’.
David Cameron said that he was “struck by how they [the rioters] were organised via social media”.
He said that the Government would be taking advice from the police, intelligence services and industry figures whether it was “right and possible” to cut off social media being used to “spread disorder”.
It is a rapid turnaround for a Government who, only months earlier, had been singing the praises of social media sites when they were heavily utilized to organise the Arab uprisings.
Back then Government officials were chastising political leaders from other countries for attempting to switch off the internet and suppress the flow of information. It appears that when it is in your own back yard, it may be a different story.
Not that any of the rioting or violence should be excused of course, but a knee-jerk reaction that yet again attacks civil liberties and internet freedom appears to be in full effect.
In a moment of mild ironic comedy during the rioting, over in Libya, a spokesman for Colonel Gadaffi chastised Cameron for trying to suppress the uprising of the people who wish to overthrow him.
Back in London, now the rioting has died down after massive police numbers were drafted in, there have been mass clean-ups organised via facebook, twitter and other parts of the web. In some areas people were being turned away because of the numbers.
The speed of the cleanup has meant that some parts of London were remarked to be cleaner than they have been for decades, and shows the other side of social media’s powerful effect.
An appeal has also been setup for Malaysian student Asyraf Haziq. He was filmed apparently being helped after being hit, but was actually having his rucksack lifted of all it’s possessions. The video has been see all around the world after it was posted on Youtube.
Asyraf has had to have surgery on his jaw and police today arrested a man in connection with the robbery.
In a press conference today Asyraf said that his mother was worried about him and wanted him to go home, but he was determined to stay in London and finish his studies. He added,
“Britain is great. Before I came here I was very eager and I haven’t got any ill-feeling about what happened. I feel very sorry for the people who did this. It was really sad because among them were children.”
Londoners have been keen to show that the actions of the few do not represent a whole community.
Over £12,000 has so far been raised in just 48 hours for Asyraf Haziq and his stolen equipment has been replaced via donations. If you would like to donate then go to the site http://somethingniceforashraf.tumblr.com/
Photo: Alan Stanton