There is not much I can say or write about the riots, criminality, thuggery, or whichever term you care to use to describe the occurrences earlier this week.
What concerns me more is the knee jerk, horse has bolted, reactions that are being discussed, as a result.
Something I never thought I’d say is “I agree with John Prescott!!” but a comment he made to Louise Mensch has me saying just that:
Lord Prescott, the veteran Labour politician, asked her: “Do you really think shutting down Twitter & Facebook is a sensible idea?” (Telegraph)
I’m sure you are aware that one of the measures being discussed is closing down social networks, should the unrest reoccur. One has to question how that would help?
The thugs were apparently communicating using Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger to create the havoc. So it’s easy right shut that medium down. Wrong. What this would cause is that they would then find another means of communicating, such as texting on mobiles. Okay so we will shut the mobile network down. etc. You get the point. Where exactly would you stop? turn off the power, water etc. etc.
Secondly, Twitter et al were not only being used to cause mayhem, but by the authorities in the form of the Police Twitter accounts to send out messages and information, useful public information. Also on Twitter were messages asking for people to help out the following morning with clearing up the mess and debris. Again, useful information.
Even today, as I am writing, this was posted on my Twitter feed:
Closing down social network sites would, therefore, not have the desired effect, in fact probably just the opposite. What message does it send out to people if a social blackout occurred?
Mrs Mensch’s point is that we could live without Twitter etc for an hour, or so. That is as maybe, but…
Imagine you are in a packed hall with a lot of other people. Suddenly all the lights go out, you are in complete darkness and fires and rioting start outside the windows. What would probably happen would be pandemonium, panic , people getting trampled etc.
Now imagine you are living in one of the areas near the site of this weeks riots and suddenly all lines of communication were cut, to stop rioters passing information…
Even on ‘thought for the day’ on Radio 4’s Today programme it was recognised that there was a good side, as well as a bad side to comments on Twitter. I believe it was along the lines of ‘turning the other cheek’ not opposing violence with violence, but through the clean up campaign, society joining together to help those in need. Through Twitter and Facebook.
While I can see what this ‘initiative’ would be trying to achieve, there must be other ways. Twitter, for instance, is littered with bots. You only have to type certain words and bots start following and commenting on your feed. Using this would still be an uncomfortable infringement on my (and your) liberties, but still better than the draconian step of closing lines of communication.
My wife chooses not to subscribe to social networking sites, that is her choice. But she does have that choice and that is how it should be – Our choice!!