Thursday, August 11, 2011

Next riot - shut down Facebook? Twitter?

So, in light of the recent riots in the UK, the government is considering a few measures to try to prevent this from happening again. It seems reasonable to modify the consequences of being in a riot as a means of prevention. But the UK are also considering shutting down social networks while riots are going on to reduce the ability of rioters to communicate with each other. I have a problem with this.

From a purely egalitarian viewpoint, I find it interesting that Western civilization would condemn countries like Iran, Syria and Egypt for censoring the public's ability to communicate during a crisis, but then turn around and suggest that they ought to do it too. From a citizen's rights point of view, I don't think that the government should set this precedent. Where do we stop? Do we allow the phone network to get shut down next? What about people who use the communications medium to tell the story of what's happening on the street? Or report people needing emergency assistance?

No, I believe that technology, like any other tool, has the potential for both legal, moral, positive uses and illegal, immoral and negative uses. We shouldn't suffer at the hands of government just because they are not capable of dealing with the bad element of society.

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