Social Media has featured heavily in news headlines in the past few days and has been blamed as one of the catalysts for the riots that dominated the UK recently. Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that Social Media platforms should be blocked to prevent further riots, saying that the Government was looking at how this could be implemented.
Speaking in the recalled House of Commons, David Cameron said ‘Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.’ Cameron added: ‘Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.’
In an attempt to crack down on using Social Media to incite disturbances, two men were handed jail sentences of four years each on Tuesday that seemed overly severe. Ironically, and although they had pleaded guilty to inciting disorder via a social networking site, their call to violence did not elicit any response! During the sentencing, Judge Elgin Edwards, QC, said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent to others. The jail terms are the most severe yet to be handed out by the courts following the riots, and may seem to be disproportionate when compared to sentences handed out to some of the rioters and looters.
However, Social Media shouldn’t be tarred with the anti-social brush too quickly as it can also be seen as having been a force for goodwill, with hundreds of people galvanized into action and turning up at riot scenes to help clear up. #riotcleanup saw people from all backgrounds armed with dustpans and brushes responding to this Twitter campaign, volunteering to help repair the devastation created by the rioters in their local neighbourhoods. Putting the ‘social’ back into Social Media and bringing communities together will hopefully help to demonstrate the value of sharing information via social networks, and prove that there are members of the public who are ready to challenge misinformation and provide a considered response that can aid and assist others.
So is restricting social networking the answer, or is it a knee-jerk reaction by a Government looking for a quick fix to the problems that spread throughout the UK? Let’s hope that sense prevails and that democracy isn’t replaced by hypocrisy!