Eoin O’Carroll – Christian Science Monitor August 15, 2011
Police in Colchester, Essex, England, have arrested a man and charged him with under Britain’s Serious Crime Act of 2007 after he allegedly used social media networks to plan a water gun fight.
In a post on the Essex police website titled “Police reassure residents they are working to keep county safe,” Essex law enforcement reported that the unnamed 20-year-old allegedly used his BlackBerry to encourage Colchester residents to gather for a city-wide bout of water-flinging. He was released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on September 1.
The arrest comes a week after several cities in England were rocked by widespread rioting, looting, and arson, much of which appears to have been organized via instant messaging and other social media platforms. Unlike other counties, Essex has not seen any large-scale unrest.
The man’s arrest has prompted outrage on Twitter, with many asking if the report was a joke. Essex police responded via Twitter that “there may be more involved” in the case, but did not elaborate.
In the wake of the riots, British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a clampdown on social media. Speaking to the House of Commons last week Cameron said that his government is “working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
Cameron’s statement stands in contrast to those he made in January, during the uprising in Egypt that ultimately ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Back then Cameron, in a joint statement with his counterparts in Germany and France, warned the Egyptian government that “[t]here must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the internet, and the right of peaceful assembly.”
Britain is not the first country to crack down on a splash mobbery. Last month, Iranian morality police arrested 17 youths participating in a Facebook-organized mixed-gender water pistol shootout in a park in central Tehran.