United Kingdom

There's a Hashtag Goin' On

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When social disorder rears its head, the political class usually offers two responses: more policing and more welfare. (These tend to be presented as radically opposed social visions, though you can easily read "more policing" as "the sort of welfare administered by a prison" and "more welfare" as "the sort of policing performed by a social worker.") In his statement to the House of Commons on the riots that have swept his country, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a policy from the police-state side of the spectrum:

Yes, this is a photoshop.

Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.

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

And 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 websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

And how exactly would the authorities "stop" the people they "know" are using social media "for ill" without restricting or surveilling the users acting "for good"? Answer: They can't. This would be an attack on the speech and privacy of everyone in the United Kingdom, not just the people who burn buildings and rob shops.

It is certainly true that the rioters have used social media to organize themselves. The difference between their free-flowing communications and the cops' much more centralized system makes it clear just how dramatically a hierarchy can be outperformed by a network. But it takes an especially stunted mindset to see that contrast and conclude that everyone needs to be herded into a hierarchy. Maybe, just maybe, a decentralized problem demands a decentralized response.

We've already seen several spontaneous examples of such a response. Ordinary people organized community cleanups quickly and efficiently using the same networks employed by the rioters. Civilians also used social media for self-defense—and I don't just mean the neighbors who banded together to protect their communities while Cameron's cops were being so ineffective. How many people looked at those rapidly updated maps of riot activity and changed their movements accordingly? Wouldn't it make more sense to build on such successes than to lock up the tools that made them possible?

If social media made it easier to riot, they also made it easier to survive the riots, and they did so at a time when the institutions that were supposed to ensure survival were in disarray. It's no surprise that people like Cameron would respond to the failure of centralized authority by calling for yet more centralization of authority. But if his suggestion becomes a concrete proposal, I hope the rest of Britain won't let itself be stampeded into saying yes.

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  1. #wildincompetence

  2. The cops were keeping a heavy presence last night at my local shopping centre, at a popular grilled chicken chain restaurant.

    1. Based in Kentucky by any chance?

      1. KGC?

        1. KFC now sells grilled chicken.

          1. I just heard about that. Any good? I mean, fast-food discount assumed.

            1. I will say only this … KFC’s grilled chicken is better than its current version of fried chicken.

              1. Sad, really. My understanding is that when the Colonel first got going, he made fantastic fried chicken. His innovation back in the day was to fry the chicken in pressure cookers, which cut down the wait time quite a bit.

                1. When I was a kid I loved the stuff. Maybe the food NAZIs got to them and made them change their oil?

                  1. Probably.

                    I just had some really tasty fried chicken at the Daniel Boone Inn in Boone, NC. They serve plates and plates of food that you eat family style.

                    1. I like the chicken at a little Cajun/Korean joint down the road.

                    2. That is some of the best fried chicken to be found anywhere.

                  2. Their quality has been dropping for years. It’s mostly the chicken itself. It’s so force grown and young, it has no flavor. And after getting chicken with clotted blood in the meat once, I swore it off altogether.

                    Besides, we have vastly superior places to get fried chicken.

                    1. How’s the fish box?

                    2. How’s the fish box?

                      She prefers that you call her Janet.

                    3. I knew you’d go there, right after I hit “submit.”

                    4. And to actually answer your question…

                      It’s not particularly fresh fish and it seems to be pre-battered. So, pretty meh. I’d much rather see them frying catfish instead.

                      The burgers and hot dog are pretty good. Great onion rings, divisive fries. But the various ice cream dishes are amazing. They make a real banana split. And fresh strawberry pie in the summer.

                      But the chicken is where it’s at. Super juicy, a perfect light batter. I wish there was more hot sauce involved, but they serve it with a silky milk gravy. (I keep hot sauce in the car.)

                      OK, now I want some damn chicken.

                    5. That was what I liked about the Daniel Boone chicken (shows my age that I can’t say “Daniel Boone” without the theme song from the old Fess Parker show running through my head)–it was spicy, moist, and clearly marinated in the precious buttermilk.

                    6. Indy’s Chicken in town marinates their “hot chicken” in hot sauce. The vinegar breaks the meat down a bit like buttermilk. They pull it out of the hot sauce, then dip it straight into the batter.

                      And they make “taters,” which are russet potatoes quartered longways, battered and then fried. Mmmmm…

                    7. Pro Libertate hungers.

                    8. Fess Parker Winery.

                      Yep, he did that, too.

                    9. Their quality has been dropping for years. It’s mostly the chicken itself. It’s so force grown and young, it has no flavor.

                      Yeah, it’s pointless to eat there anymore, I can’t stand the taste. Maybe if they did a menu item that was just the skin, I’d change my mind.

                    10. What about pizza? Is deep dish better than thin crust? And does Domino’s suck?

                    11. Too late. All family business was settled yesterday.

                    12. Shaker Village fried chicken blows Parkette out of the water.

                2. I worked at KFC back in the 80s. The oil pressure cooker was pretty slick, I have to say. It held 5 big racks of chicken, press a button and they sunk into the machine to pop back up in 7 minutes if I recall correctly. One gets sick of chicken pretty quick though. I worked at a pizzeria for a year and never got sick of pizza.

      2. Nah, it was the Portuguese chain Nando’s. (Which is everywhere here.)

        http://www.nandos.co.uk/

        1. So not quite Boss Hog style. 😉

        2. why do some UK outdoor car parks have height restrictions?

          1. To keep the “Travellers” from driving their little house trailers into the lot, and setting up a homestead…

            CB

        3. I have never had Nando’s – is it any good?

          1. Yeah, not bad by chain restaurant standards. Now if only my favourite micro-brew pub would do the guinea-fowl more often.

            1. Have you seen that James May program where he travels around Britain tasting beers? I love that show. I wish I could have a job like that!

              1. Eric Assamov at the NY Times has a similarly awesome job.

                1. I’d constantly call him Isaac and ask him whether he thought the Three Laws were more than a literary device. And, when I wasn’t doing that, I’d ask him if he put the “ass” in Asimov.

                2. Best grilled cheicken I had ever was at a small hole in the wall joint owned by a British dude in Gibraltar. It, alnog with the chips were wrapped in newspaper. Mmmmmmmm.

        4. I was hoping it was a Kenny Roger’s franchise.

        5. As long as you can still get those Ferrara Hippos you’ll be alright.

        6. ugh, there’s one in DC that the ex loved. It’s overpriced and not very good.

        7. Nandos actually comes from South Africa

          1. This started out as a social disorder thread.

    2. Speaking of fast food, Happy Meals in Sweden now come with more swastika.

      1. Now that’s funny. I can only imagine the angst and gnashing of teeth when the parents saw that.

      2. The owners of Frasses said they regretted the incident. They believe the tattoos were imported from China and the inclusion of the swastika was a mistake.

        FUCK!

        1. So the Chinese are secret Nazis? Uh, oh.

          1. Well, of course they are. Have you ever heard of a Chinese Jew? Of course not.

            With high-speed rail to transport the undesirables to the coal-powered ovens, they cleaned up their little Jew problem chop-chop.

            1. Holy cow, it’s true!

            2. I know alot of asian Jews. Perfect Brandeis demographic.

        2. They believe the tattoos were imported from China

          Then perhaps it was a Buddhist swastika.

          1. Buddhists aren’t Nazis, silly.

      3. wonder if it was actuall a swastika or a manji. A lot of people seem to think the two are the same… A manji looks like a swastika in reverse.

        1. Thank you, and once again, if certain people would take the time to read the link (and the comments), we might have been spared their foolish comments here. Of course, we might have been spared their foolish comments here then also… and the laughter engendered by seeing PC once again turn people into pretzels.

        2. Fylfot.

  3. “If social media made it easier to riot, they also made it easier to survive the riots, and they did so at a time when the institutions that were supposed to ensure survival were in disarray.”

    But … but … but that’s taking the law into your own hands! You are not supposed to survive without people wearing police costumes around!!

    1. I can’t figure out why the police don’t have twitter experts dispatching officers.

      1. You can’t?

        I bet most police don’t know what Twitter is.

    2. Is Pizza Hut better than Domino’s?
      Who has the best fried chicken?

    3. ^^THIS^^

      Being able to protect oneself is as undesirable as it gets for a statist.

  4. Excellent picture.

    1. I had to go back and look, i missed it! HA

      1. Is that real?

        1. Check the alt-text to find out!

          1. Aw, shucks.

    2. Bugger! Bloody social media strikes again!

  5. I imagine telephones and physical gathering places like classrooms, parks, and pubs also present opportunities for organizing riots. So they should be banned, too. In fact, why not require each citizen to duct tape his/her mouth closed?

    1. Don’t give them ideas. Remember, this is the country that seriously discussed a law mandating knives be made with dull points so they couldn’t be used to stab people.

      1. They banned swords. The idea of Scots not running amok with swords breaks my heart. The English sans swords not so much.

        1. ” Some people hate the English, but I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers…”

          1. If for no other reason, we must save the UK to protect its most precious resource: The surviving members of Monty Python.

            1. don’t forget the Stig

              1. There are plenty of Brits I’d like to save–Sean Connery being high on the list–but if we must choose, Python is at the top of the list.

                1. Wallace and Gromit, Mr. Bean and Thomas the Tank Engine.

                  1. We’ve already rescued Hugh Laurie. How many of the Blackadder cast are still in the UK?

                2. Doesn’t Connery live in the Bahamas or something?

                  1. Yes, as a “tax exile”.

                  2. Yes, fortunately, most of the people we want to rescue have already escaped. Cleese, for instance, lives in California.

                    1. Cleese, for instance, lives in California.

                      I thought he lived in Green-witch, Connect-ee-cut.

                    2. Also, technically, in the United States. So long as he isn’t in that pariah state.

                    3. That’s from an old Guinness radio spot he did. Stuck in my head all these years, just because he’s John Motherfucking Cleese.

                    4. He’s stupid awesome.

                3. Sean Connery is a Scot. Just sayin’….

                  1. Scotland being in Britain.

              2. And Willie MacCallum and Chris Armstrong.

                Oh…two of the world’s greatest bagpipers, in case you weren’t aware. Treasures – they must be protected, along with Cleese et al.

              3. If we’re saving the Stig we must save Clarkson, May, and Hammond as well.

                1. and seriously History Channel, stop embarrassing yourself with your cheap knock-off of Top Gear

                  1. Yea, really… what a joke.

                  2. Any English broads worth saving ? (shrugs)

                    1. I suppose all of those Page 3 girls should be rescued.

                    2. I suppose all of those Page 3 girls should be rescued.

                      Can I volunteer for this?

                    3. No, it’s too perilous.

                    4. Let me go back in their and face the peril…

                    5. No. It’s unhealthy.

                  3. Top Gear

                    THIS.

                    I kind of like the show a bit, but IT IS NOT “TOP GEAR.” “Top Gear” does awesome shit like run three-wheeled vehicles until they tip over, and drive Ford Focuses through malls being chased by Corvettes, and taking minicars up elevators and driving through Cubicleland.

                    U.S. “Top Gear” is basically some generic Spike show with two doofuses and Tanner Foust (who’s teh awsum). So please call it something else.

                    1. After watching Clarkson roll that Robin Reliant I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to own one so I can have just as much fun.

                    2. The US Top Gear is atrocious. They’re trying to recreate what happened by accident.

                      Of course, The Car Show is even worse.

          2. Is this from Monty Python? It sounds like Trainspotting to me.

            1. Don’t go by me; my comment was unrelated to the quote.

            2. You are correct, sir.

    2. Did anyone read the brickbat from a few days ago? They’re banning fire extinguishers in public areas of flats.

  6. ooner or later governments need to start listening. This sort of thing is only going to spread and get worse the more this gap between rich and poor increases. I like to think the change can happen through a more positive method but looking at the world stage it seems we may be past that.

    1. Dude, if the rioters were stealing food, I’d buy the poverty argument.

      This is a bunch of chavs taking the opportunity to steal high end personal electronics. Since when did poverty become “can’t afford a 72 inch TV and $150 running shoes?”

      Public order took a holiday. The petty criminal community decided to use the opportunity to steal some shit. It’s not a political statement, it’s just the sum of 10000 people realizing that with 9999 other people stealing shit at the same, they won’t get caught. It could happen to any city, any time.

      A bunch of people realized that if one guy steals something, he might get caught. If you get 10000 people to steal with you, you get away clean. The sum of these rational decisions is called a riot.

      1. I liked the spontaneous order of the rioters queing up to enter the stores they were about to loot.

      2. “It could happen to any city, any time.”

        Not in Plano, TX.

        1. Not in [Fill in the Blank], TX.

          1. Even Austin?

            1. Not even Austin. Granted, your ratio of mewling hippies/pearl-clutchers to real men is higher there, but I feel confident there is still a critical mass.

              1. Well, that’s a relief. Here, we like to shoot people, too. Just ask that local family who just got caught in Colorado. Their mistake was in leaving Florida.

            2. Not even in Austin. Nowhere.

      3. A bunch of people realized that if one guy steals something, he might get caught. If you get 10000 people to steal with you, you get away clean.

        That’s the whole logic behind these “flash mobs” here–a bunch of hood rats go into a convenience store, then grab stuff and take off. What’s the minimum-wage clerk going to do, try and stop them?

        These aren’t events to be celebrated as populist outrage, they represent the breakdown of social order and the idea that “what’s yours is mine.”

      4. You cannot have a consumerist society, and also an extensive welfare system that perpetuates poverty and social exclusion and expect the paradox not to crash sometime.

        1. +++

      5. This is a bunch of chavs taking the opportunity to steal high end personal electronics. Since when did poverty become “can’t afford a 72 inch TV and $150 running shoes?”

        Is this one of those social justice/positive right thingies?

    2. Sacre Bleu,

      In other words, “Wow, look at all that violence. See what happens when you don’t let us steal money through taxes.” Well, I don’t plan on being intimidated by rioters.

  7. You can have my hashtag when you pry it of my cold, dead..
    *water cannon*

    1. I think you mean watermelon catapult there.

      1. A trebuchet that fires clockwork oranges.

  8. Sounds like the constables need to have a twitter lesson and open an account… Serious detective work going on @ scotland yard i see….

  9. Does it really surprise you that the most surveilled country in the world has this response?

  10. Why can’t we invade and liberate the British? I mean, I like them, for the most part, and they’ve been allies of ours nonstop since that whole revolution thing blew over.

    1. Let’s get the UN to send in the Irish to restore order. Everybody’s head can go ‘splodey!

      1. The Irish? No. I’m thinking an Armada of Spanish people. Or maybe some Saxons.

        1. Send in the Scandinavians! Vikings putting down pillaging and plundering would teh awsome.

          1. We could use some Vikings about now. To shake things up.

            1. Sorry, but they’re all on contract to Capital One.

              1. Then Saxons it is. Saxon violence.

            2. Don’t we have to wait for Clegg to get beheaded and Cameron to die in a “hunting accident” before the Iron Men can invade?

              1. is that a spoiler?

  11. “And how exactly would the authorities “stop” the people they “know” are using social media “for ill” without restricting or surveilling the users acting “for good”?”

    Stop! Or I’ll say stop again!

  12. db, does this ring true?

    My favorite bits are this:

    the police are simultaneously bullying but ineffectual and incompetent, increasingly dressed in paraphernalia that makes them look more like the occupiers of Afghanistan than the force imagined by Robert Peel. The people who most fear our police are the innocent.

    and, best of all, this:

    Perhaps Amy Winehouse was its finest flower and its truest representative in her militant and ideological vulgarity, her stupid taste, her vile personal conduct and preposterous self-pity.

    Her sordid life was a long bath in vomitus, literal and metaphorical, for which the exercise of her very minor talent was no excuse or explanation. Yet not a peep of dissent from our intelllectual class was heard after her near canonisation after her death, that class having long had the backbone of a mollusc.

    1. Damn, that’s a mighty fine rant.

    2. Anything that craps on Amy Winehouse’s grave is something to be commended.

      1. Anything that regards Amy Winehouse as in any way significant whether in a positive or negative way, is not to be commended.

        She had, what? One single?

        Hootie and the Blowfish had more than one hit, and if Hootie is out there killing himself with crack I don’t give a shit and don’t want to hear about it. Even in a rant.

      2. I sent her some flowers for congratulations today on her third week of sobriety.

      3. ++++
        so tired of hearing about her great talent. it’s hard to argue with people when they’re so breathless with praise for the mediocre. winehouse bored me in every way from the first time i saw her.

  13. We’ve heard this before: Internet off switch.

  14. I missed the weekend apocalypse thread, so I don’t know if it has already been mentioned that London’s staggeringly sprawling surveillance system completely failed in preventing any of this from happening. In keeping with the tendency Jesse pointed out, expect many thousands more cameras to be installed in the wake of the riots.

    1. If I were rioting, first thing I’d do is destroy every security camera I could find.

      1. this

      2. So basically, you’re identifying yourself as a future criminal.

        The Pre-Crime team will be by to collect you shortly, ProL. Mind the queue.

        1. Well, yes, I’m doomed by virtue of commenting here in the first place.

    2. + 5 to Michael

  15. Cops are super laidback here unless there’s a protest going on. I mean, I regularly piss in alleys etc when I’m out on the booze. They’re generally friendly, and when I’ve been randomly searched at train stations they’ve been apologetic.

    The 2nd part is pretty good though. 🙂

    1. That was a reply to Warty.

    2. They’re generally friendly, and when I’ve been randomly searched at train stations …

      Res ipsa loquitur

      1. I mean, I regularly piss in alleys etc when I’m out on the booze.

        Res ipsa liquor.

  16. #abandonallhope

  17. Can’t blame this on guns. Has the Arab Spring come to London? Maybe we should call for regime change.

    1. This reminds me – are we winning in Libya now?

      1. If by “winning” you mean not losing and out of the headlines, then, yes.

    2. I think the example of the Arab Spring was a small factor in the London riots.

  18. How is this different from authoritative regimes blocking the internets during popular uprisings?

    1. They’re authoritarian, not authoritarian.

      1. King Arthurtarian?

        1. HurrDurrHurrian?

        2. Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.

    2. Because the gubmint here are Eton whites, not barely literate brownies like Assad and Qaddafi.

  19. Clearly England needs to ban the right of free association, cause that’s the root cause of all this.
    No more crowds allowed – poof – no more problems!

    Do we have to do ALL your thinking for you, GB?

    1. Thank God that they don’t have a written Constitution. An act of Parliament, and voil?!–no rights!

      1. Excellent foresight. Perhaps we could learn from our former Masters?

        1. I think we have. The words written in our current Constitution are mostly meaningless now, anyway.

          1. Well, yeah. They’re like, all old and stuff.

            1. At least a century.

              1. End wicked hard too understand two, yknow? [sic]

  20. See, you kill Lord Voldemort and all that evil has to go somewhere-in this case everywhere.

  21. Rise of the Planet of the English Apes

  22. Hmmm. If only the UK had a decentralized version of the police, like an armed citizenry.

    1. “A well ordered militia”, perhaps?

      1. Yea, a requirement for an AR-15 in every home would put a quick end to this penty anty stuff. You wouldn’t see this kind rioting short of a full scale civil war.

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

    Ban stuff!

  24. Finch: The problem is, he knows us better than we know ourselves. That’s why I went to Larkhill, last night.

    Dominic: But that’s outside quarantine.

    Finch: I had to see it. There wasn’t much left. But when I was there it was strange. I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.

    Dominic: So do you know what’s gonna happen?

    Finch: No, it was a feeling. But I can guess. With so much chaos, someone will do something stupid. And when they do, things will turn nasty. And then Sutler will be forced to do the only thing he knows how to do. At which point, all V needs to do is keep his word. And then…

  25. Revised London Olympics logo, now with rioter!

    http://boingboing.net/2011/08/…..ioter.html

    1. The other rings should be on fire…..

  26. “more policing” as “the sort of welfare administered by a prison” and “more welfare” as “the sort of policing performed by a social worker.”)

    Nice. You keep that up, Mr. Walker, and there’ll be a little something extry in your paycheck.

  27. 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

    So, sort of a net neutrality vision for people who use ‘too much’ social networking for ‘ill’ purposes.

  28. We’ve already seen several spontaneous examples of such a response. Ordinary people organized community cleanups quickly and efficiently using the same networks employed by the rioters.

    My understanding is that this is also a bug, not a feature in British society. There are, afterall, union people to do this kind of work, and where would they be if we just let anyone engage in cleanup efforts.

  29. It is certainly true that the rioters have used social media to organize themselves. The difference between their free-flowing communications and the cops’ much more centralized system makes it clear just how dramatically a hierarchy can be outperformed by a network.

    BS. The primary advantage of the rioters was the asymmetric victory conditions: the fact that they could strike at a time and place of their choice, while the police had to prevent them from striking anywhere at any time. It ain’t a network vs. hierarchy thing, it’s an offense vs. defense thing.

    If the roles were reversed and it was the police that were out to simply bust something up that the rioters were supposed to defend, the hierarchy would have beat the network hands down.

    1. True, but if the rioters had used a hierarchical command and control and communications system, they could have been defeated simply by a decapitation counterstrike on that system.

      In fact, one HUGE advantage of modern police forces in urban areas has ALWAYS been communications. Two-way radios that could work in cars completely changed policing. If criminals gain access to a similarly revolutionary communications system, we may end up seeing change on a similar scale.

      1. Well, the advantage of police has actually been superior force. The disadvantage before the 2-way radio era was that that force was dispersed because of the need to protect everything everywhere, while criminals could focus their inferior force on a small target and an escape route. The coordinataion made possible by police radios just allowed the police to concentrate their force. It’s hard to see how communications revolutions can help the inferior force of criminals (particularly since any revolutionary communication tech is probably available to police too).

  30. But if his suggestion becomes a concrete proposal, I hope the rest of Britain won’t let itself be stampeded into saying yes.

    Too late. I believe that Britain forces all ISPs to install hardware to scan every email they send and receive and report it to the government. The only opposition this received was that it would be “too hard” and “too expensive”. No one stood up and said, “We won’t do this on principle”.

    I weep for my half-incestral homeland.

    1. half-incestral homeland.

      I know their teeth are awful but let’s not compare them to Arkansas.

      1. Good gawd what was I thinking when I typed that. I won’t even bother correcting that one.

      2. Although, maybe it was incestral…

  31. Has anyone considered the possibility of holding social media services civilly liable for damage caused by violence coordinated using their services? This would seem to be a good libertarian solution, no?

    1. No. Where’s the culpability, unless the service is named Riotbook?

      1. Negligence.

        1. Negligence of what?

          1. The same kind of negligence that one-hour photo shops that develop kiddie porn photos are guilty of. Assistance with a crime by relaying communications whose criminal nature was plainly obvious if you bothered to look at data passing through your service.

            1. Even supposing I agreed that any communication should be illegal, which I don’t… The amount of data traffic on a 1 hour photo is nada compared to the amount of data traffic on most sites today. That’s not even to mention encryption and language barriers, which don’t apply to film developing.

              1. Well, they could have a defense available if the riotous communication was nontrivially encrypted or in a rare language. The aim should be to hamper riotous communication, which forcing them to use encryption or unusual languages rather than simply sending out a plain English invitation to riot to all their contacts, would accomplish nicely.

                And I have no problem with making communications proposing and facilitating imminent violent activity illegal. That would seem to fall under the same unprotected speech category that threats do.

                As for the amount of data FB and Twitter handle — sucks to be them. If you don’t want to bother checking with the local gas company for underground pipes, don’t go into the excavation industry.

                1. Well, they could have a defense available if the riotous communication was nontrivially encrypted or in a rare language.

                  Dude, you routinely have some silly ideas, but this one is really rich.

                  It took kids about three frickin’ weeks to start using simple substitution codes when sending SMS text messages about drugs and sex (I suppose the helpful suggestive replacement options built right into cell phone keyboards, which type numbers and symbols instead of letters if you hit the Function key, helped that process along). How long do you think it would take them to use really, really simple substitutions that would defeat monitoring software?

                  “Let’s go down to the mall and whale on some shirts” – does that text message or tweet trigger liability? Because if it doesn’t, you’ve already lost. Because maybe these kids have decided that “whale on” means “steal”. Or maybe they’ve decided that “shirts” means “black kids”. Or maybe “the mall” means a courtyard at their school.

                  Very few people will tweet “Let’s all go kill some cops” as soon as they think anyone is actually reading their tweets. There’s an infinite number of ways to convey that content and not get caught by a filtering system, though.

                  1. That might work for a close group of people who are already coordinating outside the world of social media. It ain’t gonna work for a mob.

                    1. a close group of people who are already coordinating outside the world of social media.

                      You mean, like, a group of Facebook friends?

                      Things spread virally on social networks because they get passed through successive interlocked sets of “friends” or “followers”.

                      A “mob” generated by social media may represent dozens or hundreds of different communications chains.

                      If each communication chain evades software monitoring, you can end up with the “mob” even if the separate communications would have been confusing to those outside of each component group.

                      And remember, we’re talking about the limits of the social network’s liability. Assigning liability like that would require the task of supervising communications to be reasonable, and the infinite range of communications that are potentially “riotous” makes that pretty difficult to imagine.

                    2. It’s highly unlikely that these interlocked cliques are going to have codewords for the same things, though. If one social cluster I’m in has the nickname “Bunyan’s weiner” for the Cathedral of Learning and I get a tweet saying to whale at Bunyan’s weiner, how do I communicate this message to other social clusters that don’t have a codeword for that location?

            2. We could hold the keyboard makers liable, too, for allowing such communications to be typed. And the electric company for allowing the juice to transmit such rubbish.

              1. The keyboard maker has no involvement with the content typed using their keyboards after they sell them. Not so for FB and Twitter; they’re intimately involved with the transmission of messages using their service at every stage.

                1. Nonsense. The maker of the keyboard on my droid even goes to the trouble of suggesting words after I type a couple of letters.

                  1. No, that’s the magic elf that lives inside your phone, aka the keyboard software that the keyboard maker also has no post-sale involvement with.

        2. Oh, and of course it’s been thought of. One merely need bring the suit to court and win.

        3. Traditionally, of course, ISPs (and phone companies, and FedEx, and the USPO, etc. ad infinitum) have been absolved from any liability because they act as pure conduits.

          The alternative, of course, is that they will start opening all your mail and packages, listening in on your phone calls, and so forth.

          1. FB and Twitter aren’t pure conduits though. They already are involved with the content you’re sending.

            1. That’s quite a stretch. Would you prefer that there were no social media sites? Because that’s where this goes if you make them liable for millions of people’s content.

  32. Maybe, just maybe, a decentralized problem demands a decentralized response.

    The only tool in a megalomaniac’s tool box is centralization. That’s pretty much how you can tell a megalomaniac.

    1. So, Oh-buma’s health care thing would make him a megalomaniac?

      … just asking.

  33. I should add that I think Cameron’s response is mostly stupid. Restoring gun rights in Merry ol England would go a long way toward making these riots the hours-long affairs we in the US are somewhat used to, rather than the days-long binges they tend to have in the Eurozone.

  34. The UK is already one huge penal colony where ‘everything not mandatory is forbidden’ *. Why should shutting down social media be such an issue for them? (Assuming it were possible, which is beyond my ken).

    *T.H. White, The Once and Future King, when the young Arthur was learning about fascist states by living as an ant (as I recall).

  35. OK wow thats kinda crazy when you think about it.

    http://www.anon-vpn.it.tc

  36. Hold on… I’m taking notes here.

  37. And yet the fucking pigs hate it when members of the subject population listen in on them organizing criminal violence via police band radio.

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