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Published on August 13th, 2011 | by Lara Cronshaw
Image © [caption id="attachment_3139" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="London Riots - Trigger for new controls over social media ?"][/caption] In lieu of the bitter chaos that spread across England this week, Parliaments emergency sitting, yesterday outlined a sharp turn-around in government thinking towards a number of social issues, including the forced removal of face masks, court sentencing powers and potential restrictions on the use of social networking media. Earlier this year however, restrictions we may now see, were used in real-time, during the political uprising in Egypt that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, ‘wiping the country off the digital map.’ The view taken on these actions by the western world was clear and decisive, deemed undemocratic and an infringement on human rights, services were immediately launched to manoeuvre new ways of accessing the restricted networks, including Google’s Speak to Tweet. ‘United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, accused the Egyptian government of treading on the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of association when it cut internet access ahead of planned protests.’ Thus the question then remains, why is there such disparity between the messages given by our own leader, Mr. Cameron, who previously condemned the actions of the Egyptian government, and yet has now revealed potential plans to introduce such curtailment tactics himself? Cameron told Parliament the government is investigating whether it would indeed be “right and possible” to ban people from using social media... and when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.” Unsurprisingly, immediate criticism was voiced towards the announcement from civil libertarians, who compared it to attempts by authoritarian regimes to stifle dissent.’ It seems the West, and in this particular circumstance, Britain is guilty of parading double standards on where it morally and ethically stands, as well as on its own views on the definition of democracy. The differentiation in circumstance is clear, nonetheless the arguments for and against the ban are the same in essence; to take away a right through moderation or to allow the free flow of, ‘ill’ information and incitement through lack of control... which is the lesser of two evils? Realistically, to impose such limitations and to make judgments on what is deemed to be potential criminal incitement, would be incredibly difficult given the scope of abilities such devices have. The bottom line on this is far from clear cut, "Citizens have the right to secure communications. Business, politics and free speech relies on security and privacy. David Cameron must be careful not to attack these fundamental needs because of concerns about the actions of a small minority." However, fundamentally if such restrictions could truly enable a safer society, must we not explore such potential; in doing so are we then bowing to the un-democratic tendencies we have ourselves have regularly condemned?

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Social media ban; democracy, or hypocrisy?

London Riots – Trigger for new controls over social media ?

In lieu of the bitter chaos that spread across England this week, Parliaments emergency sitting, yesterday outlined a sharp turn-around in government thinking towards a number of social issues, including the forced removal of face masks, court sentencing powers and potential restrictions on the use of social networking media.

Earlier this year however, restrictions we may now see, were used in real-time, during the political uprising in Egypt that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, ‘wiping the country off the digital map.’

The view taken on these actions by the western world was clear and decisive, deemed undemocratic and an infringement on human rights, services were immediately launched to manoeuvre new ways of accessing the restricted networks, including Google’s Speak to Tweet. ‘United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, accused the Egyptian government of treading on the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of association when it cut internet access ahead of planned protests.’

Thus the question then remains, why is there such disparity between the messages given by our own leader, Mr. Cameron, who previously condemned the actions of the Egyptian government, and yet has now revealed potential plans to introduce such curtailment tactics himself? Cameron told Parliament the government is investigating whether it would indeed be “right and possible” to ban people from using social media… and when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.” Unsurprisingly, immediate criticism was voiced towards the announcement from civil libertarians, who compared it to attempts by authoritarian regimes to stifle dissent.’

It seems the West, and in this particular circumstance, Britain is guilty of parading double standards on where it morally and ethically stands, as well as on its own views on the definition of democracy. The differentiation in circumstance is clear, nonetheless the arguments for and against the ban are the same in essence; to take away a right through moderation or to allow the free flow of, ‘ill’ information and incitement through lack of control… which is the lesser of two evils?

Realistically, to impose such limitations and to make judgments on what is deemed to be potential criminal incitement, would be incredibly difficult given the scope of abilities such devices have.

The bottom line on this is far from clear cut, “Citizens have the right to secure communications. Business, politics and free speech relies on security and privacy. David Cameron must be careful not to attack these fundamental needs because of concerns about the actions of a small minority.” However, fundamentally if such restrictions could truly enable a safer society, must we not explore such potential; in doing so are we then bowing to the un-democratic tendencies we have ourselves have regularly condemned?

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  • SU76

    double standard parades are evils and must be condemned as evils.
    of late, one wonders why 'the financial times' ran an article arguing for lesser freedom of speech in cyberspace.
    quite a shame, really .
    had it not been for freedom in cyberspace, would it have been known all the triple AAA-star studded AVAILABLE ON SALE junk rating given S & P, MOODY'S AND MORGAN GRENFELL AND SUCH GOT AWAY WITH UNFETTERED MURDER IN THE RECENT GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELT-DOWN?

    ,.

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