back to article David Cameron turns water cannons on social networks

David Cameron picked on social networks in Parliament this morning, when he told MPs – who were forced to cut short their holidays following four nights of looting, arson and violence in England – that he was considering such tech being barred when used by baddies. "Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be …


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  1. Absent
    Big Brother

    "Cameron didn't single out any specific social networks."

    He's just specifically named BBM and Twitter.

  2. Geoff May

    Seeing as it's always the technology that causes the problems ...

    ... perhaps we should ban it all.

    Now then, without technological advances, can someone help explain how I'm going to get home from work tonight?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      How about the Internet? Personally whilst it has benefits, I'm not 100% convinced that these aren't more than outweighed by the drawbacks.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        History will show us the way.

        Dear Mr Cameron

        All we need to do is go back in history to a time before rioting existed and impose the technology that existed then. That's the logical extension of what you are saying isn't it?

        1. MarkieMark1

          reading more carefully

          it sounds as though he's suggesting measures similar to banning known hooligans from football matches, could well be workable *providing it's handled properly*

  3. Skrrp
    Thumb Down


    To be fair, the news channels did a frankly shite job of reporting the news.

    I was watching News 24 on Monday night and they had their chopper hover over the places that were on fire - where the rioting had been and was no more. I was getting better info from friends who live in London than the news was letting out.

    Every time they interviewed a reporter it was by phone and the chopper was never overhead to show us what the ground situation was like.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I watched the local evening news and the reporters were on the street in the middle of a riot virtually wetting themselves in excitement. They still had buggerall to say other than they fully expected a small crowd currently outside cash converters to swell to a large baying mob that might have a go at trashing the place, and then there is JJb next door which the rioters love. Sure enough - worst nights rioting, JJB trashed.

      Next night, same place, interviewing the victims and crocodile tears about how could this ever happen inthe UK.

      They are not the cause but they stir it up through rather too specific speculation then feign horror when having given away the locations in precise detail of where something might go down, thus enabling it. More of a worry for me than BBM or facetwit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad....

    Re-read this article changing David Cameron to the leader of Iran in the protests there a few months back and it works just as well.

    It is very interesting that while 'defending' the freedom's provided by social networks in the north african and middle eastern troubles there is no correlation drawn by our esteemed leaders regarding it's use here in these troubles ....

    1. PsychicMonkey


      I didn't realise that nicking TV's and trainers was all about freedom.....

      1. Martin 71

        It isn't

        But the wish to be able to censor communications is worrying, however seemingly good the CURRENT reason

        1. mrtom84


          Who knows what future governments could do with this kind of power freely available to them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It doesn't need to be FREELY available

            Just an emergency power needing authorization by parliament to be renewed.

            1. PassiveSmoking

              Re: It doesn't need to be FREELY available

              "Just an emergency power needing authorization by parliament to be renewed."

              Because there's just no scope of abuse there is there?

              1. Anonymous Coward

                So, remind me here...

                So how many times did the US Congress renew the "emergency" Patriot act?

                1. Anonymous Coward

                  Wrong country

                  A confusion in the minds of all too many I'm afraid, including the looters in this case.

              2. Anonymous Coward

                So instead....

                We let them run riot and take no action, then blame the police for their inaction, then bitch about a lack of powers with which to discipline the yoof, then prevent government from enacting powers to let us discipline them.

                Before you so quickly berate the suggestions being proposed how about you start suggesting alternatives?

                I'm in no way advocating these powers become widely available and there is scope for abuse of any power given to a government official, that's par for the course and in ofitself one of the reasons there's been riots to start with.

                1. MonkeyBot

                  Re: So instead....

                  "Before you so quickly berate the suggestions being proposed how about you start suggesting alternatives?"

                  How about using their already quite wide-ranging powers to deal with riots? They don't need to be able to shut down communication networks to charge people in riot gear.

                2. The First Dave

                  @So instead...

                  How about leaving the networks open, then _recording_ who said what, and who listened, and then using it as evidence to arrest and prosecute the genuine troublemakers?

                  By banning them, you will only force people to use other means, like direct phone calls etc., and if you extend things to shut down the phone networks, then how are people supposed to call the police/ambulance/fire service?

              3. Chemist

                "Because there's just no scope of abuse there is there?"

                It's only like ANY other legislation

                1. PsychicMonkey

                  Missed the point

                  with the idea of turning off the social media, My point is that you can't compare the two in as simple terms as this.

                  There were no freedom fighters at these riots. They would have stolen off each other if they could, I'm sure that probably did happen.

                  To try and compare people fighting for their lives for freedom, and those destroying the town they live in because they want to steal a new shiny toy shows you up as an idiot.

                  Of course this is only my opinion, and you are entitled to yours, because we live in a free socienty, unlike those freedom fighters.

                  1. MarkieMark1

                    there may be some misjudgment

                    As the PM is very persuasive, his statement that 'it was all looting' to paraphrase, may be an over-simplification;

                    it looked more as though people were in the streets for a variety of reasons including the main one of disaffection, then the looting happened as an opportunist reaction to the police standing around;

                    while clearly there was some organized looting, the initial 'organized' nature of it is hardly different to hardcore troublemakers causing confrontations at peaceful demonstrations

                    so banning facemasks, banning known troublemakers from organizing via social media during protests, may be workable legally although dubious technically, providing there is the proper level of supervision;

                    However we should be alert to the mischaracterization of the majority of the looters, as their original primary purpose was in most cases very different.

                    Even facemasks there is the potential of it restricting peaceful anonymous protest, I myself would say that without more jury trials generally, there's no guarantee that peaceful serial activists won't be the subject of harassment

                2. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Miek

              Emergency Powers ?

              Define Emergency.

              1. James Micallef Silver badge
                Big Brother


                ... and perpetual war, Big Brother


                War on terror / war on drugs / war on communism / war on criminality etc etc etc. Permanent wars that by definition can never be won, and that are used as an excuse to extract ever more civil liberties and concessions by an increasingly oppressive government.

                Incidentally, mentioning "War on drugs", I couldn't help but note that none of those chavs would be out looting if they were quietly smoking a joint at home.

                1. The Fuzzy Wotnot
                  Thumb Up

                  @James Micallef - Well said

                  Exactly what I was thinking yesterday having just finished reading it for the umpteenth time and you're perfectly right! There always has to be a bogeyman to rally the people in Victory Square, we always seem to have to have a Goldstein being put up for the Sun readers to get into fits of rage over!

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                re: Emergency Powers?

                Define Patriot.

                1. ph0b0s

                  Those saying this could not be abused.

                  Have people forgotten how much legislation for use against terrorists was abused. How short are peoples memories. Have people not learnt that they should not support these knee jerk power grabs off the back of a rare event, as you will only suffer for it later. Let's at least see if this even was a one off or not before bring out the banhammers. The gov / police have a track record, so it is not paranoid to raise concerns.

                  And no this was obviously not the same as the protests in Iran, but the question is should a government be given the power to decide what is classed as 'good' and 'bad' communication. As the original poster put it the arguments used by our gov seem very similar if not the same to those used by other less scrupulous govs

                  Just love how social networks have gone from lauded 'saviour of democracy' status, to root of all evil in just a few months. And the same MP's saying how brilliant it was then, heaping condemnation on it now, without a hint of irony....

                  The real problem was not the social media, or people wearing masks. But that there were not enough police around. It is very nice if you have the power to ask people to remove their masks, if there no police around to do the asking....

                  And only morons would think that when cutting loads of social programs and being in an economy having lots of problems that the crime rate won't go up, so lets cut police numbers. I though it would be obvious that if you were going to do lots cuts that would increase unemployment, that you might actually need quite a few bobby's around to deal with the fallout, but that's just me.

                  1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                    All "rioters" are criminal by definition ...

                    ... and any government will make use of that for its own purposes. During the initial civil unrest - as a result, if you remember, of the police shooting a man outdoors in broad daylight - I was appalled to hear phrases straight out of the politbureau handbook: "These people are just criminals", "... Heart ripped out of the community", " ... only a small minority", and so on. BBC radio news even found some woman to refer to them as "like rats". Never any suggestion that there was a justification for the people there to be pissed off.

                    Since then, I have been dismayed that there has been no clear reason for protest for people to rally behind, I am sufficiently aware that there is a huge number of people feeling so disenfranchised that this was only a matter of time, and I'm not feeling particularly sanguine that the Olympic London will be a great place to be next year.

                    1. Anonymous Coward

                      Better in the dark?

                      1. What has "broad daylight" goto to do with it?

                      2. I rather think some facts would be good to know before condemning either side

                      3. One agreed fact is that the dead man was reputed to be involved in violent gangs and drugs and another is that he had a gun in the car, that, though perhaps usual in some countries, is considered a serious offence in the normal course of things in England, as is mere possession without the proper rigmarole being followed and passsed.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    On defining "good" and "bad" communications

                    "but the question is should a government be given the power to decide what is classed as 'good' and 'bad' communication."

                    They (arguably) already do. From section 128 of the Communications act (presumably Social Media falls under this category?):

                    "A person misuses an electronic communications network or an electronic communications service, under subsection (5), if the effect or likely effect of its use causes another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety or if he uses a network or service to engage in conduct the effect or likely effect of which causes another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety."

                    I think that "Let's go and nick some stuff and set fire to things" constitutes "causing another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety" and we would also argue constitutes "bad".

                    If the messages over the network were actually of the order "Let's go and protest at the state of our nation" then that doesn't (necessarily) constitute "causing another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety" and nor would most of us argue that it would constitute "bad".

                    I'm willing to bet that the messages being debated were more the former than the latter, and this is what people are (quite rightly) upset about

                    The rest of the section talks about time scales in the order of days and months for various parts of the process (appeals etc. ) so as far as I can see, not being a lawyer, itself is not much use as an existing piece of legislation to limit the impact that social media undoubtedly had on the speed of escalation at the time.

                2. Anonymous Coward

                  Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels

                  As someone with a batter turn of phrase than me said.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "Define Emergency."

                How about: They look like they might vote for the opposoition in the next election.

    2. Chris Miller

      Yes, just like Iran

      I well remember the front page photo of the female looter shot through the head by Cameron's Revolutionary Guard.


    3. Ru

      Ahh, its an easy mistake to make

      There, we're looking at brave freedom fighters are revolutionaries and democratic activists casting off the shackles of an oppressive regime. Whereas here we've just got a bunch of thieving chavs.

      Its just fine to oppress that section of the populace via any means possible. Only when you see a thieving chav wielding an RPG7 will they have made the transition to freedom fighter, and DC will cease to be justified in blocking twitter.

    4. MrCheese

      I see where you're coming from...

      But comparing the events here with anti-government rioting overseas is poor nalaogy-making at best. Those people were united in (mostly) peaceful protest, thier governments then proceeding to try and silence and intimidate them.

      While the ritoitng could be attributed to the travesty of a job all parties have done of running this country and therefore be described as anti-government protest it was also a spate of blatant organised raids and as such you've got to at least consider these courses of mitigating action.

      Now the analysis has begun we need to watch closely, the article could be twisted to make a great case for the IMP for example, not just loosening up RIPA again.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Fantastic idea

    Why not shut down the whole mobile phone network? They use that to communicate about riots too.

    But then they'd use landlines - so best shut them down.

    But then they'd use carrier pigeons.. I think it's best to cull the lot - just to be on the safe side.

    But then they'd use smoke signals. Nothing for it but to embark on an extensive deforestation programme and.. er.. burn down all the trees.

    *slow handclap for the shaven ballbag that is Call Me Dave - Telephone Sanitiser extraordinaire*

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Black Hole

      Smoke signals won't be much use at night though. They would use torches or prob best that we plunge our Earth into the nearest black hole to prevent this.

      Can we get the big Hadron collider shrunk into a mobile device to magic up some black holes in hot-spots?

    2. Tom 13

      Not that I like the idea of shutting any of them down,

      but the reality is, post to a web page and you notify dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions. Make a phone call from a mobile and you communicate with one. Yes you can setup phone trees, but that takes pre-planning, shows malice, and requires a leader against whom leverage can be applied. So there is some logic in what he is proposing.

      A better idea would be to use social media to mobilize the population for self-defense and real community self-policing. The problem there is, you Brits are about 20 years ahead of us 'Merkins on the march of Progressive Fascism to the soft totalitarian communist state, so that concept is anathema to anyone in government. Although I will give the citizenry fair marks for the other night: actually engaging in just that sort of self-policing seems to have broken the cycle. A bit late so I can't grant good marks, but better late than never and if you build on it, you just might start taking the first steps away from economic stagnation, possibly even leading Europe to recovery.

    3. DJ 2
      Thumb Up

      I want to make one amendment.

      Lets start with the sodding pigeons, kill all the flying rats.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "A better idea would be to use social media to mobilize the population for self-defense and real community self-policing"

        I think we might have done that already, what with having an (a) Army and (b) a police force.

    4. James Micallef Silver badge

      "But then they'd use smoke signals"

      I think they already are

    5. Anonymous Coward

      rioters use cars , bikes , trains and buses and their feet

      to get around, so they should also be banned too.

      They also breathe. If we banned them from doing that, they'd be dead in a minute or so.. Now there's a cunning plan.

  6. ByeLaw101


    So if Mr Cameron doesn't like what you say, he's going to bar you from saying it?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This already in place

      Try inciting race hatred and you'll on the wrong side of UK law

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        not really

        You are punished after you've done it. Not prevented from saying it in the first place.

        The first is dependent on you being a racist half-wit. The second comes with a presumption of guilt.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Hmmmm

      Try taking the chip off your shoulder before tryping (sic). There is a big difference between stopping someone using social media to vent or organise a legal protest and stopping someone using it to orchestrate a crime. Get a clue.

  7. Absent
    Big Brother

    Just read this

    "Sky News understands David Cameron has been in talks with Chinese government to share web-filtering technologies. "

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      That'll fix the problem, no more looting after that

      Perhaps he should be in talks with the Finnish government to share education methods.

      1. Wommit

        Re : Dan 55

        "Perhaps he should be in talks with the Finnish government to share education methods."

        WHAT!!! You mean we should start trying to educate these people!!!!

        Go and have a lie down Sir, you're obviously delusional.

        1. Armando 123

          Wait a minute

          If we haven't been trying to educate these people, what have the educators been spending all that money on? Oh, right, the administrators.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Knee jerk

    In Birmingham the rioters had 'spotters' on bikes cycling round to find target shops where there were no police around and then reporting back to the mobs. Perhaps DC would also like to ban bikes from the streets while there is civil unrest.

    1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

      I'd vote for that

      I'd have all cyclists hung, frankly.

      1. Elmer Phud


        I'm a cyclist and fairly well hung.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "I'd have all cyclists hung, frankly."

        I guess you'll be starting with the children as they'll put up less of a fight.


      3. Anonymous Coward

        and I'd have all rioters hung

        whilst we're at it I'd have :-



        Pontificating Politicians

        BMW , Cab and White van drivers

        idiots who post fatuous comments on the register (that could also be me !)

        all hung , and that's just for starters :-D

        give me time and I and a few close family and friends would probably be the only people left alive on the planet. :-D

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Suppose you meant "hanged", The male ones (and more butch femaies) may think they are well hung all ready.

      5. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        The word is "hanged" me laddo!

        The thought of a rampaging mob of well hung cyclists is not only quite scary but also probably impossible, given the amount of time and the razorblade like seats they sit on while riding!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Go half-way: why not just a snitch account

    I don't think shutting down such networks at times of strife would be reasonably feasible or practical - will it be national or just local?

    BBM (& Twitter etc used on a mobile device), I suppose, could just be knocked out on certain masts, but is a bit 1984.

    I have hardly used Twitter myself but did during the looting, only to be amazed at some of the inciteful comments posted, though many were from law-abiding people shocked and disgusted.

    So why not just let people that use such media have somewhere to snitch on/forward on such messages to the law? Self-policing, cheap and should let the criminal barstewards get caught much quicker. Of course, it would mean a tech police force (or a better one anyway).

  10. craigj


    Why don't we ban telephones, royal mail and speaking to people. That should stop 'em!

  11. John G Imrie

    A diffrent solution

    "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."

    If we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality, why not get the police to go and arrest them, or is tracking people via there twitter and facebook accounts not possible by today’s plod.

    1. Tom 13

      Oh I expect it's possible for today's flatfoot to easily do that,

      I just expect that he expects it will be tossed by the courts as an illegal search and seizure because so many pikers who post here on El Reg have posted that it is for other instances.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Except ...

        can *you* cite the last time a UK court threw out evidence because the S&S was illegal ?

        Didn't think so - now go and work out why that is ....

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What else should we stop?

    It was said people travelled to Manchester to join in the violence and looting - for the crack as they put it.

    How did they get there? Car, bus, train? Should we stop people using these services as well?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't be silly !

      Yes, you !

  13. Martin 71


    He WAS handling the riots fairly well (apart from the extended holiday). I guess his true colours had to come out sooner or later, unelected git.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No he was not

      How to handle a RIOT is written in the RIOT ACT.

      That wise piece of legislation clearly specifies that the police is responsible for upholding law and ORDER. Nowdays the police has forgotten the second bit because to uphold the second bit you often have to act preventively and ensure that shit does not hit the fan. Yeah, it may not always be pleasant and some yoof may get a few knocks here and there (had that myself 25 years back in a different country). However it is necessary.

      That is exactly why the original riot act was written to make the police (and the state) responsible for any riot damage. It is similar in other countries by the way too - the insurers are not responsible for public unrest damage. It is the state that foots the bill and rightly so.

      IMO, Cameron lost any of credit he had for handling this the moment he supported the Police moaning about the update of the RIOT ACT to remove police responsibility for any riot damage. The moaning about the social networks was secondary and insignificant compared to that.

      1. Throatwobbler Mangrove


        "...the update of the RIOT ACT to remove police responsibility for any riot damage."

        The Riot Act was repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act (E&W) 1973. Only the Riot (Damages) Act (E&W) 1886 remains in force.

        The Riot Act did not make the state responsible for damage. The Riot (Damages) Act did.

        The Riot (Damages) Act doesn't create or structure police powers or behaviour during public disorder. The Riot Act did - until it was repealed more than thirty years ago.

        What was your point again?

        1. Anonymous Coward


          Getting elected requires people to be persuaded you are the best choice. Several indendents have managed that and you are free to try. If you believe in the power of parties, join one and work from the inside.

          Personally, I find this idea of all voting for some top dog, whether called a "mayor" or a "president", somewhat akin to choosing an all powerful monarch (some monarchies are elected, as were Saxon monarchies). I prefer a system where we elect MPs "locally" so that they can be held to account locally and locals have a chance of knowing or at least meeting them on their home ground. As the term implies, pace the efforts and Thatcher and Blair to go American, the Prime Minister is just the first, as in the leader, among several ministers and can be got out of his job when necessary, as Thatcher and Blair discovered.

          What an odd idea, a "supremo" to wield central power through one person. I thought our society had spent some time getting rid of that dictatorial concept and only countries such as the USA retain an active vestige of it. That's the brilliant part about a constitutional monarchy, as Spain rediscovered and we experience: There is a nominal top person; just they are essentially powerless, their function being to represent us and to fill the chair so noone else can claim to be the leader. As they can not claim legitimacy through election, they can not change the constitution. Brilliant.

    2. Jess
      Thumb Down

      "unelected" ?

      I'm sure I remember a recent election where he was one of the candidates for PM.

      (However I only remember the previous PM going before the electorate at the end of his term.)

      1. Arctic fox

        No, not precisely unelected but then........

        .........................37% after more than a decade in the wilderness of unelectability facing a pretty unpopular PM in GB does not amount to a ringing endorsement from the British people, hmmm?

      2. Graham Marsden


        Erm, I think you mean MP, not PM.

        The only people who can "elect" the PM are members of that person's political party.

        1. AdamWill


 at all gets to elect the PM. The Queen picks him/her.

      3. Magnus_Pym


        We vote for an MP to represent us in parliament. The political parties are controlled by a bunch of unelected faceless puppet masters.. They like to pretend that we are voting for a party, an ideology or a media friendly poster boy because it keeps them in the driving seat.

        In most constituencies the only way to get elected is to be put up for election by one of two political organisations. In a lot of place only one will do. This means that your MP is more beholden to the party the to the electorate. If where up to me I would make it an offence to attempt to coerce an MP. This would make the chief whips office illegal. All votes would be 'free votes' (and what is the point if they are not?) and take power from the party power brokers to give it back to the people.

  14. Richard Jukes


    Just think what 20 charismatic gang leaders could do to the UK if they were willing to go the whole hog. Tis the breakdown of civilisation.

  15. Roger Varley

    Is that ....

    the sound of Big Ben chiming I here, or the sound of approximately 650 kneecaps hitting the back of the bench in front of them?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Not learned fron NullLabour

    The more you tighten your grip, Gov, the more tweets will slip through your fingers.

    Where are the Star Wars Icons?

  17. Alastair Dodd 1
    Big Brother

    So kick

    Twitter users in the face when they started the @riotcleanup and brought the communities back together again?? Over 32,000 followers in a DAY - much more than the few hundred involved in the riots.

    Cameron you are Cock

  18. ceayers
    Thumb Down

    last paragraph

    The last paragraph - blaming sky and the BBC for broadcasting the riots was a bit stupid.

    It wasn't on SKY/BBC where gatherings were organized on. Please engage brain before using fingers.

    Thank you

    1. BoldMan
      Thumb Down


      So when did you have your Irony by-pass operation?

  19. Magnus_Pym

    broken britain?

    Yes. The moral standards of out MPs has been shown to be deplorable, the press are in the dock and business leaders flout tax law with impunity. We need to get some decent people to show leadership.

  20. James Micallef Silver badge

    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.....

    The right to free speech is always more important than the governments' right to randomly listen in or block. People aren't rioting BECAUSE they have social networking available. Communications are just a tool. If governments want to prevent rioting, they should...

    (a) improve education (including the basics of civic responsibility)

    (b) Fix social services to exclude bummers ( means-testing, disability testing, mandatory employment at whatever job comes up after a period of unemployment or benefits cut, limit children's allowances to 2 or 3 children etc etc )

    (c) fix economical / tax incentives to narrow the rich-poor gap and reward productive work and punish laziness and greedy speculation ( lower income tax across the board + remove ALL tax credits / rebates / loopholes , double VAT on luxury items, stricter banking regulation...)

    (d) improve copper training so that they behave in ways that earn public respect rather than contempt (clue: arresting photographers for being too tall, allowing police officers to get away with crimes and standing by looking on helplessly at looters fall on the 'contempt' side)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @NO, NO, NO....

      Don't be silly! Those sounds like CAUSES. Here in the UK we only address SYMPTOMS.

      What this needs is a ban on facemasks, and new laws controlling use of a couple of social messaging and telephone networking (not Facebook, natch), maybe some further controls on freedom of assembly, and some waffle about spirit of the blitz and a photo of Dave with a broom with a few minority types. And then maybe a quick world tour reassuring sponsors about the Olympics.

  21. ElbowNi

    Is that what MPS do on there holidays

    "when he told MPs – who were forced to cut short their holidays following four nights of looting, arson and violence in England"

  22. DrXym Silver badge

    Don't they already have laws for this

    There are laws in place to prevent incitement, racial hatred etc. and some of them apply specifically to electronic communication. So use them. If necessary wave some lawsuits under the noses of corps to cough up log files that can be used to track down offenders.

    I certainly see no way at all that social networks can proactively prevent people inciting to riot. There are millions of tweets / Facebook posts a minute and most of these riot monkeys can't even write properly. So how can you scan their words in realtime? How can you vet these people for approval beforehand? You can't. All you can do is put a framework in place to prosecute and perhaps a standard of data retention that assists with investigation. But squeeze too hard and yoofs will simply move to another form of communication which is harder to track. It's not hard to obtain encrypted messaging products so push too hard and people might actually start using them.

    1. LaeMing

      That's the irony, really.

      People inciting violence via social networks should be rather easy to trace after the fact. Restricting the networks won't stop the inciting of violence, but it will push it to channels that don't leave a bright shining data trail back to the perp.

      Find them and throw the whole damn legal library at them all. Leave an example that will make future riot organisers thing realy hard about what they intend.

      I'd go as far as to suggest that they count the number of people demonstrably taking part in the riots and divvy up the punishments for the ones that can't be identified amongst any proved inciters (on top of their own punishments).

  23. Anonymous Coward

    "In Birmingham the rioters ... civil unrest ..."

    No, those were not rioters, those were roaming mobs of thieves, vandals, arsonists, and (in at least one incident) murderers.

    Nor was it "civil unrest", though that's what the BBC seemed to like calling it for some reason. "Civil unrest" might be peaceful but obstructive protests such as sitting down peacefully in Harrods entrance, which seems more like the kind of thing the Met is geared up to handle.

    There is a story to tell about deprivation and hopelessness and the like, and not just among the young (how easy does the Millionaire's Cabinet think it is for a person over 50 or a person with a disability to find a job, let alone find ongoing employment to age 65+ because the banksters have robbed all our pension piggy banks?) but these last few days are nothing to do with it, and the next few weeks will not reveal anything about a solution to it that hasn't been known but ignored over the last two decades by the various flavours of conservative government.

    Watching the police in Birmingham (and elsewhere) on Monday night stand idly by as shops etc were smashed and torched wasn't much of a recommend for any of them. They seem to have got their act together a bit now. Thanks also to the organisers and supporters of #riotwombles etc cleanup teams, and deepest sympathy and special thanks also to Tariq Jahan, who has (for some at least) restored faith in human nature.

    Stay safe.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

    I thought that was already an offence of conspiracy.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    of course

    They skip out on realising the good that communication networks were doing at the same time, allowing people to organise the tidy up and get information as to where trouble was occurring so they could avoid it. To name but two uses.

    As we saw in North Africa when you cut the information stream people go outside to find out what's going on.

    1. LaeMing

      "The riot is coming this way - get away now!"

      "Your tweet has been blocked as it contains retricted phrases. The police will pick you up later. Thank you."

  26. Anonymous Coward

    1981: Brixton? Toxteth?

    How did they organise that riots back then? With rotary dial telephones & telegrams I suppose. Come to think of it I expect that's why they got rid of telegrams back in the mid 80's.


  27. LPF
    Thumb Up

    I see the usual apologists are out in force...

    The are little criminal scum, the reason that it got out of hand, was that the police were scared crapless that if any of the little scummers weher hurt being arrested then they would end up on mansalughter charges like the dude who hit that druken waste of space tomilinson. Sorry he was a drunk, and being hit on the frigging legs does not lead to you dying, neiother does being pushed to the ground.

    Drinking every day for 30 yers like a fish leads to you dying early.

    The rioting stopped, when the police were told to actually go in and kick ass,as the GMP should with great effect couple of days ago.

    Crap heads and sod human rights!

    1. Miek

      "sod human rights"

      I'll have yours if you don't want them.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Ian Tomlinson was worth ten of you, you pathetic spiteful viciously hateful little snob.

      If you were a coroner you'd have been fired for incompetence by now, like the original coroner who conducted the first autopsy was, who said it was nothing to do with being beaten by the police. He was incompetent and he was wrong. But you're not even a medic of any kind and you're twice as wrong. Also nasty.

      Ian Tomlinson was a working man and a parent. Having a drink problem doesn't make people worthless. Being spiteful and hate-filled like you are makes people worthless.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Obvious troll.

      That is all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        If you think he's a troll check out all his postings, El Reg is one of the only sites I knwo where you can judge someone by there postings.

        A/C becuase I'm not the troll.

    4. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Oh yeah?!

      Human rights try to guarantee that I don't get a job with a uniform, come round your house at 1am, drag you out of bed and stuff a truncheon up you or your partners genital areas, simply for talking about freedom of speech in a public cafe the day before!

      Human rights try to make sure the ruling party can't just insist that you be a good little lad and do as you're told else they'll have you in a blood-stained cell screaming to have the big guy with the dirty shirt stop ripping your finger nails out because you spoke to someone on train about forming a political party to improve your local neighbourhood's sanitiation!

      Human rights were hard fought and won by countless men, women, children and sometimes even animals in wars and peace-time demonstrations, so that obnoxious little fuckers like you could be free to voice your shitty pathetic comments in a public forums without fear of some armed thugs busting down your door and doing things to your reletives, while you watch, that the writers of films like SAW only dream about being able to film!

  28. Andy Watt

    Sick, twisted and depraved use of the Internet to dispense vile world-views

    and (more recently)

    Personally, I'm disgusted. Ban this filth.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Shut down a prime source of intel? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Bloody idiotic idea. A lot of people are going to have convicted themselves by what they've texted/tweeted/BBM'd over the past few days. If they're going to be stupid enough to post evidence of their crimes on public media, we'd be even stupider to try and stop them.

  30. Andy Watt


    Nicely put. Only with your help will we continue to live in a country where black-bagging is hinted at by our LIBERAL party leader. ("Dep PM Nick Clegg - there will be "knock on the door" for rioters+looters: there are consequences to breaking the law") - OK, it's not literally black-bagging but you give enough power to a state which is backed into a corner and forced to defend itself: you'll love the hard punishments until they come for you.

    Get an open third eye, you blinkered idiot. You want to live in a police state, go live in Syria for a while and see how much you enjoy it. And your high and mighty title is at odds with your spelling BTW. Racking up the pressure only racks up the pressure cooker.

    Oh - and BANGING YOUR HEAD OFF A PAVEMENT CAN LEAD TO DEATH. Don't try that out though, wouldn't want to give you ideas.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Quick and easy solution

    Just take away their bloody Raspberry/ipwn or whatever and ban them from having said item again (its paid with by benefits) for a minmum of 2yrs.. Vodafone / Orange Everywhere and O2 could share the costs of a database matching IMEIs with billing addresses etc.. So if they attempt to take another contract out... bollocks.. dosent work too great with PAYG Sims....

    I can sense another costly disastrous IT project coming along!

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Command and control?

      So they 'borrow' someone else's.

      How long is it before someone writes an app for each platform that can send messages using strong encryption to another copy of the app on another phone?

      Perhaps using sms to send the encrypted messages, perhaps an ip protocol? No central server. Just a single plain text sms to swap keys. BBM without the server.

      William Gibson "The street finds its uses for things"

  32. Armando 123

    Oddly enough

    Y'all are making the same arguments we gun owners make.

    Just think about it. That's all I ask, just think about it.

    1. Debe

      I've considered it.

      Thought about it, what you seem to be asking is to draw similarities between something that was designed for communication and something that was designed for threatening and killing.

      While Social Networking can be used for bad and good (although often pointless and insane) reasons. Guns have a single reason for existence, that reason is expelling small objects at high velocity… which really only has a single practical use.

  33. Morteus
    Big Brother

    Oh Lord, please help me to keep my big...

    I accept, that as one of our country's leaders and shining example of reason and virtue, Mr. Cameron feels obliged to comment and suggest ways of dealing with the issue, but shouldn't it be something more than a knee-jerk draconian swipe at media platforms?

    Think it through Mr. C... think it through...

    Big Bro, 'cos we know where this can lead...

  34. Anonymous Coward


    "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill."

    Who then gets to decide which is which?

  35. b166er


    Jarvis Cocker's 'The c*nts are still running the world' springs to mind.

  36. Steve Farr
    Big Brother

    Hey so that must explain...

    ...why Facebook have suddenly pulled these two images off my wall:

    followed by

    and won't let me re-post them.


  37. Sarah Davis

    typical MP - inept and missing the point

    Cameron is so out of touch, he should step down.

    Over the past 20 years the british gov have shut down borstals and remand centres, done away with discipline in schools and in the home, consequently removing the bounderies that previous generations have had, and removing the consequences.

    Cameron doesn't have a clue about how ordinary people live. So now he blames social networks,... what a total ARSE - if it wasn't for idiots like Cameron and his gang of criminals we would never have been in this situation in the first place, and we'd still have social networks.

    does anyone else think this all seems a bit contrived - so whats the gov's plan, to make facebook, twitter, and txt msg'ing illegal - consider the impact these services have had on exposing corruption! If I was a corrupt politician i'd want them shut down too, but how,.... i know, if i could somehow secretly organise some riots where i could then blame these services (which have exposed some of my friends and colleagues and could potentially expose me),... of course I'd have to make sure my firnds and i were all on hols at the time,.. yes, yes, a cunning plan, no-one would ever guess

    1. LaeMing

      A very fun conspiracy theory :-)

      Though it misses the main flaw in most such theories - "never attribute to mallice what can be explained by stupidity."

  38. heyrick Silver badge

    Stop the bad guys tweeting?

    How do you know a person is the sort of person who should be banned [*] from social networking until, you know, it's too damn late?

    * - not that I can see this being much use, it's already against a dozen laws to riot, steal, and burn stuff down, but that didn't seem to be much of a consideration.

  39. WonkoTheSane
    Big Brother

    I'll just leave this here...

    Of course, the conspiracy theorists will be along in a minute to explain that the riots were started by "Da Gubmint" in order to reclaim their control over the dear peepul, which has been bypassed by all this "social netw*nking 'n' stuff".

    Not a black helicopter, Murdoch's illegal spy drone.

  40. Anonymous Coward


    I think it would be better if we just removed everybodies (law abiding citizens and non law abiding citizens) human rights/civil liberties.

    The British have done absolutely nothing but abuse their freedom. They don't deserve to be free!

    I hope someone in the gov't is reading this!

  41. John Fielder

    When did we last have riots all over the country?

    We last had national riots about 30 years ago. Who was in power? Oh yes, the Tories, good job they did not get enough votes to get back in. Oh!

    Treat people like s**t and don't be surprised if they behave like s**t.

    As always, a bit of political objection gets hijacked by alot of criminals just out for themselves. Line them up against the wall and throw all the books from the closed libraries at them

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's only one way to deal with this.

    Round everyone up and machine gun the lot of them...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was pretty sure that the UK (and US) governments fund that program thingy, the name escapes me, that helps develop/support technologies that help people use social media in censored states?


  44. Blubster

    "History will show us the way"

    The best solution would be to create some kind of man and machine hybrid - let's call it a cybernetic organism for want of a better name, or cyborg if you will because today's yoof can't spell cybernetic.

    Send this `cyborg` back in time to Boston 1876 to shoot Alexander Graham Bell in the face and voilà! - no telephones.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      what about a policeman/machine hybrid?

      I'd give just 15 seconds to comply

    2. Debe


      But then the Cyborg… sorry, “Cybernetic Organism” would never have existed in the first place, so he wouldn’t be able to go back in time and so then we would have technology... but then you could create a Cybo… Cybernetic Organism to shoo… but then he…

      My brain hurts.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Hosni Cameron should, in the words of the song, "Walk like an Egyptian" ...

    ... since he appears to have the same regard as a certain ex-dictator when it comes to the Internet.

  46. Jon Smit
    Big Brother

    They've turned off mobiles already

    On Tuesday the pay-as-you-go O2 network in south London was off the air. Don't tell me it was a coincidence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Smithdown Lane

      Also, allegedly, in Smithdown Lane, Toxteth for a few hours. Could just be power loss or damage to cell antenna.

  47. Colin Bain

    ..and now to another but related topic

    "To the law-abiding people who play by the rules and who are the overwhelming majority in this country, I say, “The fight back has begun. We will protect you. If you’ve had your livelihood and property damaged, we will compensate you. We are on your side.” To the lawless minority, the criminals who have taken what they can get, I say: we will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done." David Cameron

    Was this supposed to be said during the banking crisis?

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