Gale`s View - 17th August 2011
It is becoming clear that “social networking” sites were a contributory and probably significant factor in the co-ordination of the recent criminal riots and theft that has taken place throughout London and in other parts of the Country.
That poses legislators with a very considerable problem.  It is not so very long ago that the use of texts, of twitter, of Facebook, were applauded for the part that they played in facilitating the demonstrations that resulted in the “Arab Spring” and the sowing of the seeds of democracy in some dictatorships throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
In the discussions following the Prime Minister`s statement to the House of Commons upon the recall of Parliament in the national interest the liberal tendency made it plain that to seek to curtail access to social media would be a damaging and retrograde step.  I am myself at present engaged in an attempt to revise and make acceptable a proposal for the Council of Europe for a convention that would allow control over “dominant agencies” (network providers) in the interests of ensuring free access to the internet and to social networking in countries in which it is at present censored or policed by central and authoritarian government.
While social networking was instrumental in recruiting and co-ordinating those who, after the riots and the damage, wanted to gather to help to repair the damage it cannot be right that these same networks were harnessed for wholly evil purposes to enable those intent upon crime to stay ahead of the police while looting, robbing,  committing arson and violence.
Should there be any doubt about this I refer to information given to me by a young friend who was receiving circulated messages via Blackberry from friends not only warning to stay away from riots but indicating – in advance – the locations where those riots were planned to take place.  While these messages were wholly responsible they indicate that there were those, even within this circle, who were privy to information originated by those planning trouble.
The time has come, of this I am certain, when we have to grant to the police the necessary powers to terminate – as they did following the London Tube bombing – the use of transmitters servicing trouble spots.  If the police are to be allowed to succeed in the tasks that we require of them then they must be allowed to fight technology with technology and I fear that if that infringes what some regard as “human rights” then so be it.  There are times when the rights of society to protection have to take precedence over the rights of individuals

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