Ban social media? What a riot.


Someone is murdered with a hammer. Do we ban hammers? No, we can’t because there’s these things called nails and these things called houses that shelter us, so we kind of need hammers to be available.

Someone is run over by a train. Do we ban trains? Sorry, we can’t.  Public transport must continue apace and we can only put up more safety rails and signs. And avoid eye contact.

There are riots in London. British PM David Cameron mutters about banning social media.  [Insert sigh here].

Riots have been happening for centuries, but apparently if we shut down Facebook and Twitter, everything’s going to be okay and we can go back to watching re-runs of The Bill where DI Meadows ensures that all is calm at Sunhill.

Never mind that the actual London Fire Brigade  uses Twitter and Facebook. Emergency services around the world (most obviously here in Queensland during the floods) are using social media to help their work. In the aftermath of the riots, London Fire posted the following:

London Fire Brigade thanks
London Fire Brigade thanks

It was in response to posts like this:

"Thanks London Fire" tweet
"Thanks London Fire" tweet

It’s now also well known that UK residents used social media to organise clean-ups, through accounts like Riot Clean Up and tweets like this:

Brighton clean up tweet
Brighton clean up tweet
Northcote clean up tweet
Northcote clean up tweet

In fact, social media has been used to reassure and support people, with accounts like this too  from a police superintendent.

The London Metro Police is using FlickR as a functional, crimestopping tool, to house mugshots of suspected looters, using CCTV footage.

London Metro Police, FlickR
London Metro Police, FlickR

So why lash out at social media?

It’s because social media always has incited passion, and much of this passion is anti-social media angst from those who have never bloody used social media! They may know that their grandchildren “spend too much time on Facebook” and that somebody called Ashton Cooper has millions of followers on some platform called Twitter.

They see people reading the news or exchanging information over smartphones at cafes or pedestrian crossings, and it makes steam come out of their ears because they weren’t the ones who invented it. They’re quite happy with their broadsheets and their cups of tea – no Chai Latte for them please – and what’s wrong with the world the way it is anyway?


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Mudmap says:

    I found it interesting that on the one hand we applaud the use of social media to organise demonstrations such as in Egypt, getting information out of Iran – but then we want to ban it for the London riots. I am fairly sure the Egyptian and Iranian governments would have wanted to ban it as well. Who gets to choose whether the Governments wanting to ban social media are in the right or in the wrong?

    On the other hand, there is the German state that has banned Facebook – read here (second half of blog):

  2. Gary Lum says:

    I think twitter has helped more than it has hindered in terms of disasters. Emergency managers find Twitter a very useful tool.

  3. Agreed. Sensible rant at that. 🙂

  4. Subhasree Mukherjee says:

    Extremely interesting article. I do not support the ban on Social Media, either. It’s as if an over-grown baby breaking a toy, just because he doesn’t like it. People need to grow up in real-terms, now!

  5. Samara Jaeger says:

    Great article! SO very true and an enjoyable read!!

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