The Social Notwork

So, Iran has urged restraint in the policing of the London riots. The jokers. I am surprised they haven't sent an envoy to Amnesty’s Stand up for Freedom gig at The Edinbburgh Festival. And in reply, the UK gov has said to them we would love to discuss human rights, and policing techniques, whenever they wish. Bluff called. 

The policing techniques used here are a world away from Iran’s and it is not even worthy of comparison, I thought .Yet today’s announcement that David Cameron is considering limiting access to social networks by people who are known to be inciting involvement in violent crimes made me bristle. That way lies China, I thought. 

Limiting access to communications networks, when there is a legitimate perceived threat to security, is allowed. Human rights, contrary to the flack they so often come in for, are not a blunt, inflexible instrument designed to inhibit the powers of the police to protect and prevent crime. Freedom of expression is not an unlimited right. There are various circumstances in which it is legitimate to regulate access, for example censorship of child pornography on the internet. 

But David Cameron must ensure that the legacy of fear from the recent riots coupled with the determination to ensure that there is no repeat or escalation of the events of the last week, does not result in a knee-jerk reaction which curtails freedom of expression in an over the top way.   

Governments in other countries such as China, Iran, Syria or the United Arab Emirates notoriously inhibit access to communications networks and resources within their countries. Embarking down that road is a decision the UK authorities should not take lightly and it is vital that any censorship does not inhibit legitimate forms of non-violent protest. Read a statement from Kate Allen, here.

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