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Sunday, December 18, 2011

UK Shamed For Opposing Social Networks

A University of Manchester has conducted a study revealing that social media was far from being the instruments of an “underclass” bent on “criminality” as the UK authorities believed. Instead, social media was regarded as mostly a constructive force during the summer riots in the country.

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In case of an emergency, David Cameron and other MPs called for curbs on social media, claiming that they have to stop people using it for violence. Meanwhile, home secretary Theresa May also met with such industry figureheads as Facebook and Twitter over the issue of criminality. Finally, only 2 weeks before the Home Office started considering “cyber-tagging” the offenders, a spokesperson claimed in the interview that it wasn’t going to ban people “right now".

Apparently, that has changed. Actually, there’s at least one glaring example of the UK authorities getting it wrong: there were a couple of people who got sentenced to 4 years in prison for joking during the riots on Facebook. No appeals were allowed to proceed. This means that the UK government either doesn't understand or is terrified of social networks.

The research conducted by the University of Manchester reveals that there’s no reason to shut down Twitter in times of riots, and that is after studying 2.4 million tweets. Actually, even if people were arranging looting over the public social network, Twitter wouldn’t be the culprit then.

The industry experts are tired of insisting that both the riots and the following enormous clean-up operation presented a clear example of the nature of mass communication and the web – instruments available to anyone and almost for free. And, like a lot of other things, these instruments could be used either constructively or destructively. Since it’s a relatively new technology, many people simply don't understand how to best make use of it.

However, social media seems to be terrifying to the governments all over the world. At the same time, the process is about people waking up to the power they have to move together and achieve a common aim as one. This, in fact, sounds like democracy, but Conservative politicians keep blaming the social networks. In respond, a Guardian study recently showed that most rioters cited antagonistic police, social frustration and poverty as the reasons for starting riots instead of Sheer Criminality.

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