“When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. 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 Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
— David Cameron, British prime minister, opening up a can of worms, attempting to put the genie back in the bottle, and [insert your own cliche here]. Parliament held a special debate Thursday about the rioting in London, adding to the wealth of hand-wringing over the reporteduse of BlackBerry smartphones, plus Twitter andFacebook, as tools of unrest. Meanwhile, police arenaming and shaming, or broadcasting the names and addresses of those who have been convicted in the rioting, on Twitter. It’s all public record, of course, just more accessible. Dan Gillmor, writing for the Guardian, points out that “governments are terrified of the idea of unbreakable communications.” But he also says “no one can place absolute trust in the companies currently supplying the hardware and networking,” because they will most likely and most often cooperate with government. Governments that will, it turns out, do whatever they can to maintain control — in some cases stifling the free flow of information for which they might have previously professed support.