Don’t pretend you understand social media, Mr Cameron

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Now he’s finally returned from Tuscany, with dozens of his country’s high streets in tatters, Prime Minister David Cameron has told parliament he is thinking of banning people from social networking sites if they are seen to be plotting criminal activity.

Cameron has even set home secretary Theresa May the task of meeting with Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry to discuss their responsibilities when it comes to widespread civil disorder.

While we’re at it, David, why don’t we have a chat with Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere for their part in allowing the rioters to communicate with each other? Heck, let’s disconnect every young person’s vocal cords just in case they say they’re “nipping down the shops”.

Our Prime Minister is also considering a social media blackout should such an occurrence take place again.

Come on David, this is 2011, not 1984. Social media didn’t cause the riots: yobs did.

That same “ill” social media that Cameron described was also used to organise community clean ups the day after towns were trashed and for police forces to communicate to the public where to avoid and what actions they were taking to prevent further disorder.

This is not just offensive by Cameron, in terms of looking to potentially infringe civil liberties, this is shifting blame on to brands that were bystanders.

Why should Blackberry, Facebook and Twitter have their brand reputations damaged because some mindless criminals – the tiniest minority of their users – happened to use the service to communicate with each other? Cameron’s actions could potentially have the middle-class and middle-aged associating Blackberry with thugs.

To curmudgeonly suggest that social networks should be accountable for the riots and that they should be disconnected at the first sign of similar disorder, reeks to me of a Government that does not know the first thing about social media.

The signs were already there: the @number10gov Twitter account is duller than a council meeting and David Cameron’s Facebook page is just a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Compared to the phenomenal success of US President Barack Obama’s Twitter account, our government’s social media output is laughable.

Where’s the government’s “Twitter Tsar” when you need him? Number Ten’s director of digital, former Guardian man Mike Bracken, should be trying to correct the government’s draconian view towards the internet.

Perhaps Bracken should tell Cameron that social media leaves a foot print. If a mindless idiot decides to boast about his exploits on Twitter, this can be traced back to his home. Yes, this is not the case with Blackberry, which is a closed network, but a shut down is not the answer.

The way Cameron spoke about social media earlier this week reminded me of my elderly next door neighbour who used to be frightened of her Video Plus recorder. It’s new, therefore it must be evil.

“Too many tweets might make a twat,” Cameron once famously quipped. I’d argue that demonstrating you understand nothing about new technologies by even thinking about a social media blackout might make you one too.

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