Should social media be shut down during civil unrest?
British prime minister David Cameron first made the suggestion back in August, but a new study has now revealed that the majority of those in the UK would agree to a blackout of social networking sites during times of civil unrest.
In light of rioting in London in early August, the UK prime minister announced to parliament on August 11 that social media had played a significant role in the event.
"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media," Mr Cameron stated.
"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."
Now a new study by online security firm Unisys found that almost half of British residents "completely agree" that during times of disorder "providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity.”
A further 20 per cent "somewhat agreed" with the action.
The study also stated that 46 per cent of respondents believe the authorities should have open access to data about social network users to prevent organized criminal activity.
Demographics of those responding positively to the proposed blackout were certainly in favour of older members of the community – only 28 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 agreed, while this figure more than doubled for seniors.
However, British newspaper the Guardian analysed some 2.5 million messages sent via Twitter relating to the riots as part of its Reading the Riots study, conducted in conjunction with the London School of Economics.
The study found little evidence to support claims the social networking tools – in particular BlackBerry's Messenger service – had been used to instigate unrest.