Okay, that’s not quite what I said. I did more of an informal poll online and got an interesting range of responses.
The comments on Twitter, Facebook and blogs all varied a bit, but they all covered the same basic ground. Lots of people were mad, which is fair enough because the government is threatening to block sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to prevent terrorists from organizing via social media.
Some of those people sounded almost … pissed.
#JustinWillNotKeepYouSafe – If they feel you are dangerous for terrorism then they don’t need to make you safe by keeping you out. Simply scare people out of committing terrorist acts. — Nancy Shaw (@nancy_shaw10) May 1, 2013
Dear @JustinWelby, Your “threat” to cut social media won’t make people safer. It will make people scared & it will not protect them — Mary Montgomery (@Amarath) May 1, 2013
CAN WE DO THIS? CAN WE STOP A KILLING SPREAD THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA??? MY GOD THIS IS SICK TO THE CORE! NO DIGITAL LEARNING WONDERS WHAT WON’T AFFECT US! SACRIFICE MOTHERS!!! — Phyllis Fritter (@fritterphillies) May 1, 2013
Others were just disappointed.
“They promised a British version of “The Facebook” to control the new digital media, and have delivered exactly that.”
But a bit of the anger also comes from the wider criticism that nobody has really thought through this threat. Justin Welby has some pretty high-profile allies who agree with him on this subject. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Sarms for sale Rowan Williams, for example, is taking the opposite tack to the prime minister.
Welby and his boss have both agreed that these social media sites are a useful threat-alert mechanism, that could help to determine which terrorists are actually plotting and which are “frying their bacon.”
And yet, as Will wrote back in 2012, he does not feel he has the authority to revoke social media sites’ license to operate in Britain.
This is a bit of a ridiculous argument. I doubt either Welby or Cameron even realize it, but they are denying the possibility of credible threat assessments to social media that have the ability to inform individuals about potential risks that might be seen as “normal.”
In other words, the argument that social media can be used to facilitate terrorism is a legitimate one, which the government should be able to bring to court.
But there are reasons to think this might not go quite as smoothly. For starters, most people are probably going to see this just as an argument that the government’s anti-terrorist powers should be more broadly deployed.
Another argument is that removing social media sites as an effective anti-terrorist tool would probably mean more people in Britain would lose their jobs. Because apparently, lots of people in the UK like their jobs.
Some people seem to think this could work. Some have told me that the government would just need to do some “background checks” and see which companies were doing a good job.