Looters in London have taken to Twitter
this past week to show off their takes. The British government has been debating
if it should be shutting down social media sites while the riots are ongoing.
is standing firm in its conviction that everyone's voice is important, even if they are the behind the violence. The company believes it is an ethical question of freedom of expression. That freedom of expression is not without limits, wrote Twitter's Biz Stone
and A Macgillivray
in a blog post
in January 2011. The pair said that some Tweets are removed, including those that are illegal and spam, but those are the exceptions. Content on Twitter is otherwise not subject for removal and the company does all that it can to protect the rights of its users.
"Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users' right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed," Stone and Macgillivray wrote
. "While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose."
, social media networks are being put under the microscope by the police who are gathering evidence to arrest those involved in the violence on their streets during the riots. Police don't have to search long to find young people who are bragging about the takes from looting, with several pictures of vandals popping up.
The police's job is a bit easier in arresting those stupid enough to believe social media bragging is the way to go.
It's understandable that a government facing this type of violence would want to stop it any way it could, but taking social media out of the picture is the wrong approach.
Social media has changed the world when it comes human rights. Voices that had been silent in the past have been set free.
That freedom has not come without cost; Syria, Egypt and Libya all have seen violence in the streets, as people stand up to fight for what they believe to be their human rights. Each of those governments has worked to put a blackout on those voices. If the UK acts in the same way those governments did, it will begin a slippery slope of infringing the rights of the people's speech.
Silence is not the answer. When the world has a chance to see what is truly going on in other areas, action takes place. Those who commit criminal acts will not be celebrated in the long run, nor will governments who silence their people.