Social: Britain Exploring Options To Curtail or Shutdown Social Networks In London Riots; Evolving Mobile Society Has Governments Backpedaling A Bit


Say the NBA season doesn’t get cancelled and we get half a season.  The nation rejoices.  Season goes along and we have a gritty hard fought playoff and the Lakers wins another championship at the Staple Center.  It’s riot time.  But this time, the local gangs are ready.

Blackberries?  Check.  Twitter accounts?  Yup and coded hashtags ready.  Facebook?  Checked.  But just before the game ends, the local, state, and federal authorities with the cooperation with the wireless providers shuts off access to all the social media sites and block Blackberry and other popular messaging services.

The gangs and anarchists can’t figure out what happened.  There was some minor flare-ups near Olympic Blvd but nothing the LAPD couldn’t handle.  Damage numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  A few arrests but no one hurt.  No bus was burnt and no police cruiser so badly damaged that the Lakers have to pay for it.

Would you be okay giving the government this kind of authority over the Internet?  Well, Britain is considering just doing something like this.

I picked the Lakers because these civil disobedience seems to be a tradition with every NBA championship they bring home.  And it doesn’t seem to happen where else in North America unless you count Vancouver.  But that was different:  they lost the Stanley Cup and that was why they rioted.

Well, the British government is looking into controlling the above mentioned social networks and messaging services and getting the companies involved to cooperating in the ongoing instability and for future unrests.  In the aftermath of the London riots (is it still going on?), the prime minister, David Cameron, blamed the police while asked parliament to look at whether new powers are needed to deal with this.

Among those new power including being able to institute curfews.  Okay, I’m fine with curfews in some limited instances.

However, imagine the scenario in Los Angeles I created.  Earlier in the year, there was a lot of coverage and discussions about a bill that will grant the President of the United States the power to shut down the Internet in a national emergency resulting from a cyberattack.  I don’t know what the wording on this bill is but it would be scary if there is enough leeway in the wording that could allow for a broader interpretation of the law.

In this situation, I doubt anyone would consider shutdown the Internet just because the Lakers won another championship.  In fact, this such a regular occurrence that I doubt anyone briefs presidents about it anymore.

But supposed there was unrest that was not isolated to one section of a city.  What if it was more widespread or involved multiple regions across the country?  The Rodney King verdict sparked widespread rioting in Los Angeles for days.  I hate to think just how badly it would have been had there been a coordinated effort by the gangs and criminals to rape the city.

I understand that there is a subjective line between the criminal unrest in London and those involved in the Green Revolution in Iran.

And in deciding whether to grant the government, any kind of government, this kind of power is a slippery slope.  It’s not often a government willingly gives up power in matters of public safety or national security.  Don’t bet on the Patriot Act to ever be revoked is basically what I am saying.

On the other hand, in the interest of protecting itself, a regime will do almost anything to survive.  Take what happened in Iran.  I’m sure Tehran did not have laws on the books that allowed the regime to take down the Internet, specifically access to the social media outlets but government blocked access to them.

When I get a chance, I like to explore this further.  We are a fast evolving mobile society.  Situations are going to come up that we don’t yet know how to deal with.  New laws and standards may be needed.  Exciting times…


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