Two Britons were given jail time this week for organizing the London riots. And how did they organize such chaos? They used Facebook.

London Riots Organized OnlineWhile this is both a surprising and an obvious answer, this has caused many to recognize the methods that technology and social networking sites are being used for criminal activity. After all, 20 year-old Jordan Blackshaw and 22 year-old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan did organize a Facebook event titled, “Smash Down Northwich Town.”

Whether or not these posts added to the looting, arson, and overall chaos that resulted in five deaths is uncertain; however, they definitely caused “panic and revulsion” among many English people. The two men have been sentenced to four years in prison for their role in organizing the London riots, and many others have been given jail time as well for taking part in London’s unprecedented unrest.

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, stated that the government is now exploring options regarding limiting suspected criminals from sending messages through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. No final decision has been made, however, and UK officials have scheduled a meeting with Facebook and Research in Motion (RIM, maker of BlackBerry) to discuss this policy.

How do you think this would affect the free speech and personalized nature of social media marketing services? Do we enjoy using these sites because they allow us to express ourselves? And should those who abuse the privilege be regulated? This new use for social media may have quite a downside.

Jamie Bates