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A Right to Tweet?

Posted on: August 22nd, 2011 by Larry

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently told Parliament that he is considering limits on social media – specifically Facebook and Twitter – in order to address their impact on the London riots. He noted that these sites were used by rioters to plot and spread information about their activities. Blackberry Messenger, a free instant messaging service, also played a large role in the way the rioters mobilized and organized during the height of the violence that rocked London in the first weeks of August. See the video and read more.

The UK government is set to meet with executives from these companies in the coming weeks, and both Facebook and Blackberry have agreed to cooperate with efforts to control the influence of their products. Meanwhile, Cameron and the UK government have come under criticism, particularly because they condemned the Egyptian government’s attempts to block sites like Facebook earlier this year. Social media played an unprecedented role in the uprisings in Egypt and several other countries this year.

  • If you were in David Cameron’s position, would you consider limiting the use of social media sites if you thought it would increase the security of British citizens?
  • Twitter has refused to close the accounts of London rioters, citing “freedom of expression” as a reason not to intervene. Do you agree with this stance? Do you think Twitter should cooperate with the government?
  • Is there a difference between what the Egyptian government did in January (attempting to shut down social media sites to make it more difficult for anti-government protesters to communicate) and what the British government is considering now?
  • Many people have used social media to organize in reaction to the riots, specifically to organize cleanup efforts. Does this use of social media for positive outcomes influence how you feel about the government’s thinking?

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