Social media - don't moral panic, Captain Mainwaring

Do you remember when England used to be a quiet, uneventful place where nothing ever happened? Then came the scourge of social media spawned by satan him very self, causing our delinquent youth to take to the streets in a collective act of violence.

At least that’s the impression you’d get from listening to David Cameron’s speech last week and certain MPs calling for a social media.

But it’s not just the PM who’s determined to stamp out rioters using The Internets. A judge has sentenced two men in northwestern England to a FOUR YEAR jail sentence for creating a Facebook calling for a riot that no one, apart from the police, turned up for.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, both received four-year sentences for using Facebook to “organize and orchestrate” disorder in the early hours of August 9. Sutcliffe apparently woke up the following morning with a hangover and removed the page and apologised, saying it had been a joke.

Needless to say no “massive Northwich lootin” actually took place.

The disproportionate jail time for these clowns is reminiscent of the notorious Robin Airport Tweeter who received a £3,000 fine for tweeting that he would bomb the airport as a joke after it was closed due to snow. Although the authorities could be forgiven for taking the Facebook riot  “joke” more literally – and a punishment in this case, albeit less draconian, would be just – there are similarities.

Both these examples display an extreme anxiety in our criminal justice system about the dangers of social networks – and a pending Daily Mail-style moral panic in general.

Lucky then that MPs didn’t swap expense fiddling claims on Twitter; phone hacking didn’t occur on Skype; and the bankers didn’t use Facebook to trade sub-prime mortgages – otherwise our society would be in really big trouble.

Oh, wait a minute…

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