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2 British men sentenced for encouraging rioting on Facebook

August 17, 2011 |  2:45 pm

UKFbook

Two men have been sentenced to four years in jail for using Facebook to incite riots and civil unrest in England.

The men, 20-year-old Jordan Blackshaw from Marston and 22-year-old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan from Warrington, were arrested last week after days of riots spread across London.

Those riots were fueled, in part, by people who organized civil unrest using BlackBerry Messenger text service and Twitter, among other social media technologies. The riots started on Aug. 6 after a march in the London neighborhood of Tottenham protesting the death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who had been killed in a firefight with police, turned violent.

However, Blackshaw's and Sutcliffe-Keenan's posts calling for unrest didn't contribute to any of the rioting that took place before they were arrested, according to the Guardian, a British newspaper.

Neither the Guardian report, nor statements posted by British police on the sentencing, offered details as to what exactly the men posted on Facebook, or how frequently.

Nonetheless, in court in Chester, a city in Cheshire County where the two men were sentenced, Elgan Edwards, the recorder (a type of judge) of Chester, "praised the swift actions of Cheshire police and said he hoped the sentences would act as a deterrent to others," the Guardian said.

Assistant Chief Constable Phil Thompson said in a statement, "If we cast our minds back just a few days to last week and recall the way in which technology was used to spread incitement and bring people together to commit acts of criminality, it is easy to understand the four-year sentences that were handed down in court today."

And that is part of the point, it seems, in the sentences handed down to Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan -- sending a warning to the masses in the aftermath of unrelated riots in which technology played a role.

"The sentences passed down today recognize how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity, and send a strong message to potential troublemakers about the extent to which ordinary people value safety and order in their lives and their communities," Thompson said. "Anyone who seeks to undermine that will face the full force of the law."

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Guardian, in another story on the sentencing, that he supported the court's punishment of the two men, which critics are calling too strict.

"What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behavior and to send a very clear message that it's wrong and won't be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing," Cameron said.

[Correction 3:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were sentenced to 4-years each in prison. Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan have been sentenced to 4-years in jail, not prison.]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of mug shots published by an English newspaper, the Guardian, of Jordan Blackshaw, left, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who were each sentenced to four years in jail for calling for civil unrest on Facebook. Credit: Cheshire police

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