Organizers of civil unrest around the world are using social networks to coordinate their efforts. This method was first used to organize protests in Iran and their success has led to its newest form of “organized riots” across England. Social networks have also been used in New York City and Philadelphia to coordinate attacks against rival gangs or innocent shoppers. New York City has announced the formation of a new police unit to monitor future social network events advocating “mayhem”.
Is it the responsibility of our government to monitor social media? The first amendment clarifies free speech but even the law prohibits shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. The simple solution would be to hold the appropriate social media network accountable for their published content. The first lawsuit against Facebook or Twitter for civil damages caused by civil unrest organized on their site will quickly stop future events from being published.
As usual, the government’s solution to a problem is to increase government. In any case, the authorities are addressing a real issue that was only a matter of time once social networks were formed. Since social networks communicate instantly, I suspect the result of this action will only be to reduce the notification timing of future events and/or the incorporation of coded locations. Remember, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
The NYPD has formed a new unit to track troublemakers who announce plans or brag about their crimes on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
Newly named Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor, one of the department’s online and gang gurus, has been put in charge of the new juvenile justice unit. He and his staff will mine social media, looking for info about troublesome house parties, gang showdowns and other potential mayhem, sources said.