Using social media for violence

By | August 11, 2011

Photo from Flickr by: RichardBakerThere’s an interesting story on All Things Digital today about the UK possibly cracking down on use of social media during events like the riots in London.

UK Prime Minister Cameron said:

Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.
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 websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

You can’t organize without followers

If anything the use of social media will only help law enforcement track down the perpetrators of the violence. As for using Twitter or Facebook to organize these types of crimes, you would need a decent following to get the message spread.

If a new account created on Twitter to create trouble attempts to tweet the location of a planned crime, few people will see this message, because it’s a new account with few (if any) followers. On the other side, if you have lots of followers you’re more likely to get the message spread, but to gain those followers you would likely not be a professional criminal mastermind – instead you’re probably a typical user.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the person with a large enough following to get his or her message spread on Twitter (or Facebook) would likely have a long enough history of using the service that it would be really easy to track him down should he be responsible for a crime.

What about the good stuff?

If the government shut down social networking sites during these types of events, it would also shut down the voices of the innocent people involved. Those who would be trying to share the story and make it publicized would be silenced.

How then could things like this occur?

What do you think of shutting down social media during civil unrest?

Photo from Flickr by: RichardBaker

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