The riots in London this summer were aided by rioters coordinating efforts via the Blackberry messenger service. This resulted in some MPs calling for a social media blackout during times of civil unrest.
A new study has shown that the public support such a notion. A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.
75% believed that the government should have free access to any data shared via social media in order to combat crime. Support for such initiatives was strongest amongst over 65's, whilst the younger people showed least support. Not surprisingly this corresponded broadly with usage of social media.
A word of sanity
Padraig Reidy from Index on Censorship thankfully provided a voice of sanity during this debate.
"It's very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable," he said. "The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people sreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK's position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they're potentially handing over to government."
I find this whole suggestion totalitarian in the extreme. Give me your thoughts below.
Should social media be blacked out during civil unrest?