British citizens will be thinking twice before they post anything to their Facebook page after two men were jailed for just that.
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, are both facing four-year jail sentences for their social media activity during the London riots last week. Out of all the punishments for participants in the riots, these are the harshest so far, according to the Telegraph.
Blackshaw created a public Facebook event called “Smash Down Northwich Town," targeting an area south of Liverpool, for the night of August 8. Nobody showed up for the event except the police and Blackshaw himself, according to the Guardian. Blackshaw was arrested on the scene.
Sutcliffe-Keenan, while intoxicated, set up a Facebook page titled “Let's Have a Riot in Latchford,” in the early hours of the morning on August 9. Upon waking up, he deleted the page. However, in the time it was live, “[I]t caused a wave of panic in the town.”
Though the four-year sentences seem harsh for what amounts to Facebook abuse, the blog of the Crown Prosecution Service defended their decision earlier today:
“While the judge heard the two defendants were previously of good character, they admitted committing very serious offences that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. The consequence of their actions could have led to more disorder and this was taken into account.”
Both men’s sentences come in the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for the United Kingdom to determine whether or not to restrict use of social media sites that could be used to plan violent acts. His words have sparked a debate weighing civil rights against public safety.
However, a punishment this severe might deter would-be social-network abusers so much that a restriction wouldn’t be necessary.