Online Protests v Twitter Terroists

Social media has played a part in starting, and resolving, some of the most dramatic social upheavals in modern times. By this I am talking of instances like the London riots, the BART protests and the widespread panic that was involved in two Mexican civilians recreating and re-engineering a take on the Orson Welles’s classic ‘War of the Worlds’.
In the last example, if you haven’t heard, it was when a school teacher and radio presenter tweeted about a case involving men kidnapping children from an unnamed school. No children where harmed, though many parents became desperate to pick up their children from school. Causing several car accidents and emergency lines being jammed.
Strangely the case involving the two Mexicans is looking to have the highest sentences given out, 30years for each. They have been charged with violating terrorism laws and have such been labelled by the world media as “Twitter Terrorists”.
While in the UK, only a month previously, Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were both sentenced to four years in prison for inciting the London riots via Facebook. While none attended the proposed events in Northwich and Warrington, the potential for damage in that instance was a lot greater and an actual threat.
Also Research in Motion (RIM) the maker of blackberry, are reported to be helping police with their investigations as the Blackberry service was the most used to organise people to riot.
Finally in the case of the BART shootings that took place on new years 2009. While this was a while ago, the protests are still occurring even now. Including one from Anonymous who organised a hacking of the BART website and celebrated it via twitter and other social networking tools.
The BART protests have not always been peaceful; rioting did occur in early 2009 and after the final verdict handed out on July 8th 2010. Police noted in the last riot that 3 out of ever 4 people arrested where not from Oakland and where not protesting the decision, but where self styled anarchists.
After reviewing all three of these cases as well as some other less known ones, like the Cronulla (Aus) race riots, I have decided that the law and those who judge this law are out of date with modern technology. The fact that sending a text message or tweeting for actual violence is given a lesser sentence than some one creating panic by suggestion is totally insane.
This is because of 2 reasons:
The first being the intent. While I will concede that the two Mexican’s probably did attempt their stunt to cause some level of panic, as was the case with Orson Welles, they were not looking for destruction and mainly where taking advantage of the media available to them. Hardly a crime that should carry a sentence of 30years. While those who instigated riots where trying to cause destruction and chaos. A far more greater threat than panic.
Secondly I don’t think that media, and governments who censor their media, understand that they can no longer get away with merely sensationalising or denigrating stories and people. This was one of the original causes to the start of the London riots, and the censoring of the Mexican media, about the increase in drug trafficking related violence, forced the citizens to take to the internet for updates.
People need to remember that while everyone can be a reporter, most generally are not and don’t ever intend to be.
I think the censor ship may also be one of the reasons that the penalty is so high. The Mexican government was embarrassed by this, and having their inability to stop drug trafficking violence taking over show around the world.
But hey that’s just my two cents.


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