Mistrust of social media persuades half of UK to back shutting down social networks during riots
That’s a scarily large number of people out of a reasonably large survey (2,000). Luckily it comes after social media executives from Twitter, Facebook and Research in Motion met with the Home Secretary Theresa May and others and it was made clear that the government’s foolish idea of shutting social networks was not on the agenda.
Still that is a worryingly high number of people agreeing with David Cameron’s Daily Mail inspired call to shut social networks.
The research conducted to gauge sentiment around the role social networks played during the recent riots found that:
- Over two fifths (41%) of Brits used social media to keep updated on developments regarding the riots and looting in the UK in August
- Over a third (34%) of people say they used social media more than any other news source to track developments around the riots
- However, only a tenth (11%) trust the information being circulated about the riots on social media sites above other news sources
- Half of Brits (50%) are in favour of temporarily shutting down social media sites during similar periods of public unrest in the future
While it is no surprise to read that so many used social networks, namely Twitter, to stay up to date with breaking news the number who actually trust it as a source (11%) is really low. True there were/are unsubstantiated rumours swirling around on Twitter that are quickly retweeted, but still. Very low.
What’s also interesting is that more people want to close social networks than actually use them to stay up-to-date. James Devon, Planning Director at MBA, says argues that the “fact that trust of information being circulated on social media remains low, reflects public acknowledgment that these tools were also being used to mobilise the looting and spread false rumours”.
Really? Not sure I buy that at all. Where is the evidence that social networks were tools of rioters?
Devon adds that “this is also probably why the country is split 50/50 over whether social networks should be shut down during riots. They can organise riots and clean up after them. Be anti-social and very social”.
I’m not sure I agree with that either. I don’t think that many were involved in the willing spread of false rumours. I certainly saw a lot more retweeting false rumours believing they were true.
I argued yesterday and have done so before that closing social networks is a ludicrous idea (yes, I said ludicrous: Hands off Twitter – Switching off social networks is a non-starter #handsofftwitter) and thankfully Theresa May and others saw sense in kicking this idea into touch.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “We welcome the fact that this was a dialogue about working together to keep people safe rather than about imposing new restrictions on internet services…. The Home Secretary set the tone clearly that we were not there to discuss restricting internet services.”
Research in Motion, which makes the rioters favourite phone the BlackBerry, called the meeting “positive” and “productive”, saying it was asked to consult on the use of social media to “engage and communicate during times of emergency”, not limit its use, according to a report on PR Week.
It will be interesting to see if this idea of Chinese style banning of social networks is now dead and buried or whether it pops again should violence like we saw two weeks ago rear its ugly head again.