On Tuesday the security firm Unisys released the latest results of what they call their bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, a ‘global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security related issues‘.
Of the two questions that the survey asked, it was the second one about social media, which caught the attention of the MSM – or the Guardian anyway.
What did they ask?
During recent unrest in major UK cities, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate criminal activity. Do you agree with these statements?
- The authorities are playing catch up and need more resources to monitor online behaviour?
- During outbreaks of unrest, providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity?
- The authorities should have open access to data about social network users in order to prevent coordinated criminal activity>
- Providers of social networks should get more information on the people using their services before they allow use?
The Gruniad’s article on the matter says:
More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.
A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.
Which, after reading the report proper, only goes to confirm (as if confirmation were needed) that one should never take anything in the press at face value these days (if indeed one ever could).
The report says that the following percentages agreed with the four statements above: 49%, 48%, 46% and 42%.
Almost half I’ll grant you but hardly a majority, let alone 70%. Helpfully the report also gives some idea of how the responses breakdown by age. Not fully but enough to give us more of an idea of the views of each age group. It found that:
[The] desire to take strong measures rises with age:
- More resources for police: 41% of those 18-24 to 52% of those 50-64 (seniors: 44%)
- Temporary shut-downs during social unrest: from 28% of those 18-24 to 60% of seniors
- Police monitoring: from 36% of those 18-24 to 52% of seniors
- Background checks of new users: from 28% of those 18-24 to 49% of seniors.
Which shows us that a majority only exists as you go up the age scale. No surprises there. As for the 70% figure? The closest we get is for one age group on one statement.
Indeed the figure ’70’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the report, or assuming that the reporter James Ball (whose bio says that he ‘is a data journalist working for the Guardian investigations team. He joined the Guardian from Wikileaks, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’) didn’t get beyond it, the press release either.
About the only useful bit of the Guardian article therefore is the space filling rent-a-quote:
“It’s very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable,” said Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship. “The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people spreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK’s position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they’re potentially handing over to government.”
None of which I can disagree with at all.