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Deutsch: Britische Ausschreitungen lösen Ruf nach Sperre sozialer Medien aus
The recent riots that have taken place in the UK have initiated a wave of statements from officials on the necessity to shut down or suspend access of UK citizens to certain social media services.
The Metropolitan Police Service confirmed that it considered shutting off some social media sites: "The MPS did consider whether social media sites could be closed during the disorder but police do not have the facilities or the legislation to enable this."
David Lammy, the parliamentary representative for the London district of Tottenham, went so far as to ask BlackBerry to consider suspending its messaging service.
Even the prime minister David Cameron in his speech in the House of Commons indicated that there was a need to find a way to stop people from communicating via such services: "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."
Privacy campaigners such as Open Rights Group (ORG) are concerned about the precedent that might be created by this situation and the possible abuse of powers by the authorities. "Events like the recent riots are frequently used to attack civil liberties," said Jim Killock, executive director of ORG who added: "Policing should be targeted at actual offenders, with the proper protection of the courts. How do people 'know' when someone is planning to riot? Who makes that judgement? The only realistic answer is the courts must judge. If court procedures are not used, then we will quickly see abuses by private companies and police. Citizens also 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".
Reporters Without Borders urged the British authorities "to rule out any possibility of shutting down or drastically restricting the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter". The NGO also expressed its concern on the personal data provided by Research in Motion (RIM) - the Canadian manufacturer of the popular BlackBerry smartphone - the validity of the data as evidence and the legality of the way it was acquired.
Reporters Without Borders declared that "(it) is not minimizing the gravity of the situation in the United Kingdom and the urgency of the need to restore order, but it believes that the provision of personal data to the police sets a disturbing precedent in a western country and could have significant consequences as regards setting an example for others kinds of government."
The tendency is even more concerning, as a study on the effects of censorships published by AntonioCasilli from Telecom ParisTech and EHESS of Paris, Paola Tubaro from Greenwich University, revealed that, actually, censoring of the Internet and communication is a factor that increases the violence of riots. The hypothesis is verified by the situation in Tunis where the censoring of the Internet precipitated Ben Ali's fall and in Egypt where the total cut off of the Internet led to the civil uprisings against Hosni Mubarak.
Concern that social networks to be targeted as BlackBerry helps British
police identify rioters (12.08.2011)
Social media information helped prevent some riot damage, police say
Rioters' access to social media could be stopped, Government says
Prime Minister's attack on social media unwarranted (11.08.2011)
A study reaches the conclusion that Internet censuring increases the riots
(only in French, 18.08.2011)