I just read CNN’s article describing the current mindset of the British Prime Minister after the disastrous London riots. I don’t know where he is getting his information and advice, but blaming the use of social media tools for the riots and having the cojones to publicly declare that these tools should be shut down during crisis is nuts. One word comes to mind; “REALLY?!!!” I can only interpret his comments as a knee-jerk reaction to an unsettling situation. I assume he had his head stuck in the sand during the whole middle-east upheaval thing….
Gerald Baron’s recent post on the Emergency Management website is spot on. The use of social media tools in civil unrest is a complex issue. I particularly like the analogy that compares blaming social media use during protests to blaming the trees for a forest fire. We need to uncover the root cause, contributing environment and government response before attempting to stifle such fundamental freedoms like free speech. To do otherwise is not only foolish, but dangerous. Osama bin Laden ran his complex terrorist organization via courier. Where there is a will, there will be a way.
Governments must continue focusing efforts on using all forms of SM to gather intelligence, listen, educate and influence positive behaviors during protests/unrest. It is heartening to know that law abiding London citizens used SM to keep in touch with family members, restore a sense of community and organize clean up crews.
Add the London riots to a growing number of civil unrest events that have cast the light on the use of social media; Egypt, Syria, Vancouver (OK, I know this was a stretch… a hockey game for cryin’ out loud). Social media usage was prominently noted as having profound impact on the outcomes, positive and negative, and will continue to be used to organize chaos and arrest offenders. If the British Prime Minister thinks he can keep things “hunky dory” by simply go in through the back door and disabling these tools, he needs to upgrade his telephone modem, get rid of his Prodigy account and connect with the 21st century.