In The UK, Inciting Riots On Facebook Will Land You Three Years In Jail

Questionable use of Facebook has real consequences

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In The UK, Inciting Riots On Facebook Will Land You Three Years In Jail
[ Social Media]

If you remember those riots that consumed many parts of England back in August, you probably remember all of the discussion regarding social media’s influence on their spread.

At the height of the outbursts, triggered by social unrest, Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the possibility of censoring some elements of social media. Speaking on the subject, Cameron said that free flow of information can be good and bad and submitted that the answer might be in stopping communication via social sites like Twitter and Facebook.

That idea received opposition from the social sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as RIM, whose BlackBerry Messenger was vital to the rioter’s communications. In the end, social media communications were not restricted.

Which brings us to Phillip Scott Burgess.

Today, The Telegraph reports that the 22-year-old Manchester resident has been sentenced to three years in jail for his use of Facebook during the riots.

On August 9th, Burgess posted this as his status:

“Message to all – we need to start riot’n we need to put Manchester on the map, first lets riot king street Manchester, haha.”

Later that day, he posted derogatory remarks regarding the race and ethnicity of some of the protestors. Over the course of the next few days, he posted more racially charged statuses and ended by saying “Bring bk the riots.” He was arrested on August 16th.

He plead guilty to three counts of “publishing written material to stir up racial hatred and encouraging or assisting the commission of a riot.” He will now reside in a cell for a maximum of 3 years.

The sentence, according to the judge, was based on the belief that people who had a hand in organizing the riots are just as responsible as those who participated in the looting and vandalism.

John Hepke, part of the police team that sought Burgess after he made the Facebook posts had this to say about the ruling:

“Everyone witnessed the disgraceful scenes of violence, looting and arson and it is clear that social networking sites were used to incite certain elements of this disorder…I hope today’s sentence sends a powerful message to those who choose to follow Burgess’ example and use social networking sites irresponsibly and criminally that they will be dealt with harshly by the courts.”

During the riots, it was clear to those watching online that some of the youth failed to keep their thinking caps on at all times. Not all social-media fails involved inciting the riots – others used Facebook and Twitter to talk about the car they had just smashed or the item they had just stolen.

And this kind of use of social media isn’t limited to those in the UK. Folks were pretty senseless when it came to social media use during the Vancouver hockey riots as well.

How do you feel about this case? Do Burgess’ posts make him just as guilty as those who actively participated in the violence? Let us know what you think.

In The UK, Inciting Riots On Facebook Will Land You Three Years In Jail
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  • John

    Not just no, but HELL NO!
    What I say on facebook should stay on facebook.

    • Steve

      Why should it be any different to material published by any other means? If you publish, publicly, information that is intended to incite a riot on Facebook then that should be treated exactly the same as if you were, for example, to place a small-ad in the paper with the same content.

      Let’s get one thing straight: these people were prosecuted under existing “incitement to riot” legislation. These laws were not drafted with facebook or twitter specifically in mind.

    • David H

      JOHN…how stupid are you? Just how abysmally cretinous are you? That is the WHOLE POINT of POSTING ON FACEBOOK. NOT TO STAY “on FACEBOOK”!


      “Message to all – we need to start riot’n we need to put Manchester on the map, first lets riot king street Manchester, haha.”

      Burgess posted for the express purpose of it NOT “staying” on Facebook. “Message to ALL”…

      He posted where he knew it would be read publicly by the very young people he targeted as the audience. HE, Burgess, had no intention whatsoever of it “staying on Facebook”.

      For that reason, his intent, he cannot, and You cannot, use it as his defense.

    • Jost

      tell zuckerberg ‘cos he’s already sold it.
      Your post is just plain stupid – this was incitement to riot – it’s illegal whether it’s on FB/Twitter or a poster it’s a crime

  • http://rjnselection.co.uk Rich

    These sentences are not harsh enough and it has nothing to do with facebook, twitter or any other social media site. As an Englishman i saw how damaging these riots were to our country and society, just because they used facebook makes no difference at all, it would be just the same if they had put up posters in the street, called their friends by telephone or sent out carrier pigeons to organise riots. Would articles like this one appear then?

    • T

      so you think that inciting a riot is more damaging than the disparity of rich vs. poor?

      • http://rjnselection.co.uk Rich

        what? You must be joking, the ‘purpose’of these riots was little more than people looting shops and stealing televisions, phones, laptops etc. So because they are poor you think its acceptable? (and not all the rioters were the poor outcasts of British inner cities)

  • David H

    There is a difference between an open invitation to show up at a public place for a show of non-violent support or protest or celebration and an open EXHORTATION to RIOT.

    “Riots typically involve vandalism and the destruction of private and public property. The specific property to be targeted varies depending on the riot and the inclinations of those involved. Targets can include shops, cars, restaurants, state-owned institutions, and religious buildings.”

    This IDIOT, Burgess, knew exactly what he was inviting. He was actively, repeatedly promoting VIOLENCE for the sake of VIOLENCE and destruction of people’s lives, livelihood, personal property, and feeling of peace and safety.

    He got what he deserved, absolutely got what he deserved.

    And riots usually are not waged for anything but a wanton mob mentality that depends on the most criminal elements among society to lead the crowd.

    If 300 people posted the same kind of messages on Twitter and Facebook then 300 people should be jailed.

  • http://dehumidifierreviews.us Gil Santos

    Yes I agree that Phillip Scott Burgess deserved the 3 years in the slammer. Everyone must be responsible for his actions, be it inside or outside of the internet

  • John Wood

    What’s important is that in the UK, as in most other civilised countries, inciting people to riot is against the law.

    Burgess could have done that by email, in a forum or chat room, by phone, or shouting in the street; whatever method is used the inciter is just as guilty.

    However, using social media is far more effective in getting the message across, and easier to trace.

  • http://www.mindmagic123.com Hypnosis Hypnotherapy Los Angeles

    Cound’t agree with most of your posters more. The offence is incitement to riot. Now you may disagree with that law, but that is a separate issue. The medium used to publish the incitement is secondary. Incitement is a statement designed to encourage/inflame/instigate others to breaches of the laws, especially public order. This then becomes an offence, just as in a conspiracy, or “acting in concert.” The instigator is connected to the unlawful acts of others. The sentence of 3 years, perhaps on someone, (young and?) foolish, who did not understand the above, seems a bit harsh , but that is a tertiary issue, Of course, at the moment examples are being made, Pour encourager les autres, (to encourage the others), as the French (Voltaire) would have it. His inflammation of the crowd has resulted in the inflamation of judiciary!

    hypnosis hypnotherapy Los Angeles

  • http://www.snakeshows.com.au snakeman Raymond Hoser

    Glad to see some common sense among the respondents here.
    Incitement to commit crimes is the same no matter what the medium.
    We run Australia’s most successful wildlife display shows reptile shows reptile parties in Melbourne Australia and recently newer rivals sought to destroy our client base and business by various real world and cyber attacks, including facebook hate pages.
    We went to court, took action against the criminals and also had the facebook hate page removed.
    I must stress that we were dealing with lies and incitement to commit crimes and hatred and this had absolutely nothing to do with “free speech” which is something I have been a champion of for years.
    All the best

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  • wallee

    Yelling “Fire” in a smoke filling room of people is not a crime.
    Yelling “Fire” in a room of people where there is no fire is (or can be).

    In both cases, the same result can be obtained.

    Is it a crime to stir up people who have their heads on their shoulders straight? Oh, wait, people with their heads on straight are “thinking”, and thus not so easily riled up. The crime cannot be commited, can it?

    As the Piper has proven, only non-thinking sheep can be lead astray.

  • T

    fire! fire! fire!

  • http://www.onlinetv.us Randy Penn

    Yes, governments need to control the people more. Protests, or riots, to change government is illegal and you should go to jail. Trying to get others to stand against governments is illegal, stop being the fool and get in the cue.

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