Official: networks limited riots

Picture of the Olympic VillageThe police have issued a statement which will throw a lot of kneejerk politicians into apoplexy on both sides of the House. BlackBerrys and Twitter chatter may have been instrumental in rioters communicating where the "action" was, but by monitoring them the police prevented further rioting at the Olympic Village (pictured), on Oxford Street and the Westfield shopping centre.
You'll recall members of the Government including the Prime Minister had been vocal about investigating ways in which the networks could be shut down when there was trouble around. Well, there could have been three more major riots in the Capital if they'd done so last week.

You could argue it's not fair of me to pick on this as they weren't in possession of these facts when they made these declarations. I'd counter that this is right, but you actually need to check all the facts before proposing actual legislation in the House of Commons.

The facts

Assistant Met Police Commissioner Lynne Owens is the person to thank for the balancing comment and voice of sanity. Other colleagues including acting commissioner Tim Godwin said there was also a lot of false information on the networks and that he had considered requesting that they be turned off during rioting incidents.

These apparently conflicting facts back up my own view, which is that the social media are entirely neutral and their use - whether to spread chaos, gather intelligence or co-ordinate a cleanup campaign - is entirely down to the people using them.

What's certain is that three sites look as though they were on the target list, including one that's going to be one of our flagship towns next year, remain untouched. And this appears to be because police say they were listening to the social networks. Isn't that a good reason to keep them open?

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