Cameron Tries to Lock Down Social Media

U.K. riots and social media: help or hindrance?

The dust is beginning to settle in England after days of rioting that have left behind casualties, more than a thousand arrested, and many local businesses in tatters. Yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron told an emergency meeting of Parliament that he wants to crack down on rioters and the social media that helped them to organize.

Cameron said he would like to meet with industry leaders, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Research in Motion, in order to see what could be done to prevent future riots from being orchestrated online. "[When] people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them," Cameron said. "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." His comments caused outrage among free speech groups.

As the prime minister tries to clamp down on social media use in the face of rioting, the Greater Manchester Police is doing just the opposite. The police force there has made more than 170 arrests in connection with the riots thus far, and has launched an initiative to virtually shame those who have been convicted. Using its Twitter feed, the police force has starting publishing the names, birth dates, partial addresses, and sentences of perpetrators.

"We promised we’d name all those convicted for their roles in the disorder—here we go . . . ," the Twitter feed read. The police force is aware that its line of action is controversial but is unapologetic for its choice of tactics. "Lot of debate about publishing details—courts very clear, justice should be done publicly," the force tweeted.