In the UK, with the coming of the Olympics, it would seem that the police are finally trying to catch up with social media organisation. Those in “authority” are frequently seen to be tailing those who find different ways of using media generally used for trading photos of cute cats. No longer is data to be collected by those benevolent forces such as Facebook and Twitter, who’s actions turn us into commodities, but now the police want in.

In August’s Prospect, Jamie Bartlett and David Omand have described the police’s new toy as a “social media hub capable of scanning social media to better stop and spot outbreaks of disorder or criminal activity during the Games.”

This social media medium was obvious made overtly important to the authorities by last years riots. However, that organising was not, by and large, organised on open social media, but on the closed blackberry medium. Yes, there was much misinformation on the more open mediums, and some people did attempt to use Facebook to start riots, but Twitter and Facebook were also the source of the much-praised post-riot clean ups.

The riots were not planned – they generally aren’t. Protests, many (probably most) which aim to be peaceful, are often advertised and planned on these open mediums. And, what with the police’s generally abysmal performances in managing the protests, marches and whatnot, this new form of spying on the public adds a legitimate concern into what will happen to peaceful protest. If the police don’t understand the difference between UK Uncut, a man getting annoyed with the weather, and riots, what possibility do they have of understanding, as Bartlett and Omand list, the “sarcasm, exaggeration, irony and bragging” that much of social media content is made of?

The Olympics may only be for this summer, but national security online is well on its ways. Judging on their previous performances on such issues, you are best advised to refrain from making any comments which are not sarcastic, exaggerated, ironic or bragging during the Olympics.

Advertisements