It didn’t take long for Iran and China to comment on our home-grown scenes of destruction. Iran, (mischievously) suggested that David Cameron should be reported to the United Nations for, I can only presume, supporting physical criminal acts committed by the police against ‘protesters’ and further, human rights violations. It’s the old chestnut of a revolutionary or terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter. Anyone would be hard pushed to describe what happened as either of those. It cannot be said that what occurred in some of the English cities was anywhere in that league. Perceptions are interesting, as is how they are reported.
The apparent role of social networking in the recent rioting, arson, thieving and looting, has ratcheted up several notches, the debate about controlling this specific element of the internet, to the point, where, closing down social networking sites, or, perhaps, blocking the ability to access the internet, has been openly suggested. China perceives double standards and sees a [re-trained] future ally in controlling the freedom of the internet. It reduces by one the number of Western democratic political critics of China’s totalitarian methods and its imposition at will, of the isolation of its country from the global internet.
The closing down of cell phone networks has already occurred, following the bombing atrocities in London about five years ago, and with good reasons. The Madrid bombs were set off by cell phones. I could not phone mobile-to-mobile to find out how a relative was, who travelled daily in to central London using at least one of the underground lines affected.
It is not beyond the realms of reality to believe that security services together with police are going to be involved in setting up emergency procedures which will contain instructions not just about shutting down cell phone networks – this would neutralise Blackberry encrypted messaging – there would also be operating codes of conduct with social networking sites – coded language for possibly temporarily, locally (UK wide) switching them off – in case of any future civil unrest. This is a murky area full of pitfalls. Does the scenario make China’s moral stance a smidgin more familiar?
The dangers in closing down messaging networks also works against the innocent people caught up in situations who need help and have no other means of calling for help than a cell phone to do so. Someone or some group will have to make the judgement of Solomon.