Shutting down social networks in the interest of public safety is OK, says the British public
Nearly half of the British public would support the temporary shutdown of social networks during periods of civil unrest, according to a survey.
The Unisys Security Index revealed that 48 percent of people believe that social networks and instant messaging services should be blocked to prevent co-ordinated criminal activity.
Law must adapt
The survey of 973 people also found that 46 percent accept authorities should be able to access data about social network use in the interest of public safety and that 56 percent would take legal action against companies which suffered a customer data breach.
The desire for such drastic action rises with age as 60 percent of seniors said they would support a social network shutdown compared to just 28 percent of 18-24 year olds.
“Social networking and its impact on the law has come to the fore in the last year,” Jonathan Polney, a barrister in criminal law and member of the Bar Council’s IT committee, commented, “We’ve seen discussions about libel and super-injunctions on Twitter; the use of social networking to coordinate civil unrest in UK cities and a series of high profile attacks on well-known companies which have led to loss of data. It is important that the law quickly evolves to address issues related to new technology.”
Neil Fisher, vice president of Global Security Solutions for Unisys said, Governments and law enforcement authorities should consider ways of quickly sharing and identifying threats across borders and jurisdictions. There is also a need to have clearer, common definitions of online privacy and security between policy makers, Internet service providers and software and hardware providers.”
The report comes after Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) were all reported to have played a role in spreading and perpetuating the August riots in cities across the UK. Rioters arranged meeting times and places using BBM and two would-be rioters were jailed in August for trying to incite looting in Warrington and Northwich using Facebook groups.
While Facebook and Twitter are relatively easy to monitor, BBM messages are encrypted and the government appeared to suggest it would consider blocking these services in the future.
However human rights groups opposed such a ban, warning against the restriction or monitoring of people’s private conversations, and the hashtag #riotcleanup was used to recruit volunteers to clean up the riot-affected areas.