Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Creating a Riot Facebook Page

The UK riots these days is marked by several high profile arrests. Now, the UK justice system is no doubt jam packed with riot cases in the midst of thousands of arrests taking place across the county. Now, some sentences are emerging. One man was sentenced to four years in prison for setting up a Facebook authorities said was used to incite some of the rioting.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

We’ve been covering the UK riots from a technological aspect for some time now. Dramatic video’s surfaced that both shines a light of lawlessness in the UK streets and paints a picture of people desperately crying out for various reasons. In the midst of all of this, UK prime minister David Cameron spoke in parliament to say, among other things, that he was working with industry and police to “stop people from communicating on social media” whenever it is used for ill.

When we covered Cameron’s comments, we noted that regardless of what side of the debate you are on, actually carrying out such a task is not likely to be technologically feasible regardless of how you interpreted Cameron’s comments.

While there is some debate over the specifics of how Cameron is going to carry out that particular objective, Chinese state media took full advantage of the situation and used Cameron’s comments as justification for China to censor the internet.

Now, people are being sentenced over these riots. According to This is Cheshire, 22 year old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan was sentenced to four years in prison for his roll in the UK riots. He admitted to inciting public disorder by creating a Facebook page. From the report:

Assistant Chief Constable Phil Thompson said: “If we cast our minds back just a few days to last week and recall the way in which technology was used to spread incitement and bring people together to commit acts of criminality it is easy to understand the four year sentences that were handed down in court today.

“In Cheshire, we quickly recognised the impact of the situation on our communities and the way in which social media was being used to promote and incite behaviour that would strike fear in to the hearts of our communities.

“From the offset Cheshire Constabulary adopted a robust policing approach using the information coming into the organisation to move quickly and effectively against any person whose behaviour was likely to encourage criminality.

“Officers took swift action against those people who have been using Facebook and other social media sites to incite disorder.

“The sentences passed down today recognise how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity and sends a strong message to potential troublemakers about the extent to which ordinary people value safety and order in their lives and their communities.

Anyone who seeks to undermine that will face the full force of the law.”

I think that the police should enjoy the ease of catching these people. It won’t get easier than this.

What some of these rioters are doing is posting pictures of themselves committing crimes on their personal Facebook sites or associating themselves with the riots through their personal Facebook accounts. These people might as well have broken in to a store, stolen a flat screen TV and left behind a business card say, “Hey, my name is [so-n-so]. I live here. Please come and arrest me.”

In short, their not the brightest pennies in the fountain. Posting your crimes on your personal Facebook account that has your real name and address is an extremely stupid thing to do – especially when the police are hungry for an arrest.

I think that some of the rioters will wise up to this and start using fake names and using accounts on more non-transparent websites should they decide to start riots in the future. It’s not a matter of if these types of criminals will start doing this, but when. When criminals see these arrests, a number of them will no doubt use better means of conveying their messages, thus making the police work way more difficult than it is now.

So, in all of this, I say the police better enjoy the ease of tracking down these people via social media – it won’t likely be this easy in the future.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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