Britain Locks Up First Facebook Fomenters
They said they were going to, and by golly they did: British magistrates have sentenced two men to four years in prison each for their role in inciting riots via social media several weeks ago. Jordan Blackshaw, age 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, age 22, were arrested last week, tried, and sentenced with a speed which must surely reflect the extent of public anger in Britain over the riots -- but also unease over social media's clear potential for facilitating mayhem.
One thing which strikes even a casual observer is how remarkably stupid both these young men must be, given their actions. While some rioters attempted to conceal their identities by communicating through PIN-protected Blackberry messages, Sutcliffe-Keenan set up an easily-traced Facebook page with the straightforward title "Warrington Riots," and Blackshaw did something similar for the town of Northwich.
I guess it's possible the duo didn't care whether they were caught and went to prison, but I find it more likely that they (like so many others) naively assumed that you can preserve anonymity on Facebook merely by withholding your name. The fact that law enforcement can request email addresses, ISP data, and other identifying information probably never occurred to them.
It's worth noting that neither of the Facebook pages set up by the dumb-antic duo actually resulted in any rioting, according to local British police -- but incitement to riot is incitement to riot, even if nobody acts on it. And the British public is clearly (and understandably) in no mood for lenience in the wake of the shocking civil disorder.