The British Kerfuffle

I was rather shocked when I heard about the Riots in the UK. The UK‽ Really‽ That’s different. Kind of disturbing really.V for Vendetta.)

BBC Map of UK Riots


UK Riots

I got to thinking about some of the implications of the reporting coming out of the BBC.

Officers believe some rioters have used BlackBerry Messenger – a service allowing users to send free real-time messages – to organise violence.2

And I was told that there was some use of social media platforms like FaceBook and Twitter. In particular, Facebook groups. Allegedly, locals on Facebook were reporting the groups as fast as they were being created. An interesting social dynamic as opposing social forces collide. I got to thinking about these alleged locals using social media and wondered: What if someone who was not in the UK was organizing or creating the Facebook groups. That would be something. It would be a way that sympathizers who were not local or in the UK could lend a hand to people on the ground. This lead me to think about how would law enforcement react to this sort of help to the rioters.

Law in the U.S.A. is different than in the U.K. But none the less if it were in the U.S. and people were to lend a hand then those lending a hand might be considered to be Terrorist. Using the definition preferred by the state department, terrorism is: “Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant* targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” [Quote taken from The definition of terrorism]3. One thing that I see in the current news is that there is no political motivation. So some might say that this is not terrorism because it lacks motive.

But if it were terrorism, and the individuals were known through FaceBook, would the UK ask for their extradition to the UK? – to put them on trial as terrorists? Would UK law apply outside of the UK? If the person is creating a FaceBook group and is doing from outside of the UK and several blokes join a group does that make the creator of the group a terrorist? and also guilty of breaking UK law? Can someone break another country’s law without leaving their current country – even country of citizenship? What gives the UK legal rights prosecute?

The other thing which is disturbing in this social media business is the global social reaction to the difference between what is happening in the UK right now and what happened in Libya, Morocco, Egypt, and Syria earlier this year. Social media was part of that unrest as well, however, political motivation was definitely part of that. Yet the rioting was deemed to be for a “worthy” cause. Yet if the same actions were taken in the U.S. we would call it Terrorism. I think The Guardian really points out some of the idiosyncrasy of the U.S. definition and the application of the term Terrorism as it relates to crime.

Notes

  1. Restaurant was burnt. Why? This is perhaps the saddest news out of England in the last 48 hours.
  2. Crips and Bloods, rather a more generic idea of swarm of people. Also keep in mind that the UK has more street video cameras and video surveillance than any other country, so wearing a mask is logical for this kind of activity.
  3. Wikipedia and About.com