Britain’s double standards have been exposed through ongoing moves to block social media in the aftermath of riots that rocked the country despite having encouraged the use of the same tools in destabilising Africa.
The West, led by Britain, encourages the use of social media networks in the so-called democratic processes and have been attacking countries such as Zimbabwe on unfounded allegations of suppressing media freedom.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament on Thursday that his government was working with police, the intelligence services and companies 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.”
He mentioned Research In Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry Messenger service as one of the tools that were used by rioters.
Media reports say police in the UK were investigating the use of social networking services such as those operated by Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger.
Three people have since been arrested in Southampton on suspicion of using social media and messaging to encourage rioting.
However, in separate interviews yesterday, media analysts said the move exposed British hypocrisy.
Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri, a lecturer in the department of Media and Society Studies at Midlands State University, said social media was a platform which should not be tampered with.
“Social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry messenger are part of media rights, which are liberating but not manned by professionals and there are chances that they can be used irresponsibly once in a while.
“However, their (the British) double standards have been exposed because when it happened in Egypt they were celebrating the power of social media.
“We shouldn’t wish for the burning of other countries like the UK and now they can see that there is need for respect for other people whether rich or poor. When they criticise Africans and the so-called dictatorship in Africa, there is no sincerity at all,” he said.
Dr Mhiripiri said it was important for the British government to investigate the cause of the protests than trying to block the media.
“They should investigate what caused the riots than trying to block the social media. In the global political economy we have a history where those countries in the West want to assume the holier than thou syndrome.
“The demonstrations are interesting in that there might be a generation whose problems are not addressed. When the youths are disempowered there is inherent crisis in the capitalist order because those youths are feeling that pinch.
“They also have to consider that the same social media might be the one being used by those who are against the riots, so if they block them then it won’t be easy for them to stop the violence,” Dr Mhiripiri said.
Another lecturer in the same department, Mr Peter Mandava, concurred with Dr Mhiripiri.
“The British have always been known for their double standards and the desire to block social media is nonsensical. They always criticise media laws in other countries but media regulations are standard the world over. They (British) criticised the Interception of Communications Act when it was introduced in Zimbabwe and other countries tried to disable text messaging for the same reasons,” he said.
“The problem is they want to attack the medium of communication but not addressing the problem itself. There is need for them to address the problem first before attempting to block social media networks.”
Britain’s Home Secretary Ms Theresa May said: “Among the issues we will discuss is whether and how, we should be able to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
Tory MP Tracy Crouch said closed networks such as BlackBerry messaging were more of a problem because while social networking had been heavily used to organise disruption, Twitter had also provided the police with the opportunity to track where future disturbances might take place.
However, when social media helped protesters organise and overthrow other governments in Egypt and Tunisia early this year, while also providing citizen journalism when mainstream media was shut out, it was lauded as a tool of democracy.
In a speech delivered in Kuwait in February this year, the British prime minister, argued that freedom of expression should be respected “in Tahrir Square (Egypt) as much as Trafalgar Square.”
But when the same methods are used in a scenario like Britain, they are seen as disturbing, Toronto media Professor Megan Boler said.
“Here it’s not about a dictator. Here the issue is the corporation as a representative symbol. These things always spiral off into hitting the mom and pop stores, which is unfortunate,” said Prof Boler.
Meanwhile, the US has created a special section within the New York police department to monitor Facebook usage.
Zanu-PF has criticised the Cameron-led coalition Government for using force against innocent civilians.
“The British government’s decision, particularly that of Prime Minister David Cameron to deploy over 16 000 armed police officers with instructions to use whatever means and resources at their disposal to crush the rioters is surely a heavy handed approach on innocent citizens who are merely expressing their dissatisfaction with the system.
“Blacks in the United Kingdom are exposed to serious racial discrimination and high unemployment. One expected the politicians in the United Kingdom to understand the root causes of the unrest instead of taking draconian measures which only exacerbate the situation,” he said.
Cde Gumbo said the riots in the UK had stemmed from the financial crisis related to funding of unjust wars in Libya and Afghanistan adding that Britain was running out of resources to continue funding wars.
“David Cameron dismissed the role of human rights groups in a nation which claims to be the custodian of human rights the world over.
“This exposes the hypocrisy of the United Kingdom government which sponsors the so-called human rights groups in Zimbabwe. If the riots had occurred in Zimbabwe, he would have told our Government to respect human rights and good governance and at the same time called for regime change,” he said. What a bunch of hypocrites.