Pirate Party UK condemns kneejerk blocking of social media

The country is recovering from the scenes of arson, looting and violence that have shocked us all over the last few days. Thankfully, we have had a night of relative calm. This has been without the use of bullets, the army, water cannon or any of the extreme measures that many have called for recently. We have also seen the best side of the Internet, with communities rapidly organising clean ups through social media.

It is therefore all the more regretable that the Government is considering restrictions on Twitter and Facebook.

The Prime Minister stated:

"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."

Attempting to curb social media and messaging is a dangerous kneejerk reaction that can have serious consequences. What is suggested in David Cameron's statement is not technically possible without some kind of blanket blocking. Once again the government has proposed a crackdown, but expect others – in this case "industry" to carry it out. The Police must not be turned in to "twitter cops", but be allowed to do real work to protect our communities.

The Government is ignoring the fact that the Police have made a great many arrests because looters have revealed their identites, or even incited riots on Twitter or Facebook. A clampdown on social media would make the work of Police in tracking down these people much more diffcult.

Sadly, this fits in to a wider pattern of reactions to the disturbances which threaten our civil liberties. There have been many calls for water cannon, but these are simply not designed for use in situations involving small numbers of mobile rioters. Plastic bullets are more dangerous still. 9 teenagers have been killed by them in Northern Ireland, and Sir Hugh Orde, a senior Police officer with experience of their use, has called this a bad idea.

This has been a testing time for our liberal democracy. But if it crumbles at the first push, it is neither liberal, nor democratic.

Cracking down on free speech is not just wrong, it's dangerously wrong.

Loz Kaye
Justice Spokesperson
Party Leader
Pirate Party UK

Further information:

Loz Kaye works with youth in Manchester.
For his personal blog post about the aftermath of the riots, visit:
http://lozkayepirate.tumblr.com/day/2011/08/10

Thursday, 11 August, 2011 - 14:45
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