Two men were sentenced to four years in prison for trying to organize riots with Facebook events, titled plainly "Warrington Riots" and "Smash Down Northwich Town," which attempted unsuccessfully to incite disorder in England as it already burned. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were not quite creative in naming their calls to action, but did include a date, time, and location. No rioting occurred as a result of either event, but police took notice and arrested the young men.
Already nearly 1,400 people have been charged in last week's British mayhem, with harsh punishments being handed down across the country, including a six-month jail sentence for one London man charged with stealing a $5 case of water from a looted market. Critics claim that "reactionary" sentencing has resulted in "disproportionate" punishment. But a Manchester judge disagreed, openly tossing aside sentencing guidelines to "show that outbursts of criminal behavior like this will be and must be met with sentences longer than they would be if the offenses had been committed in isolation."
"These make a mockery of proportionality, which is a key principle of the justice system," according to one legal expert. Still, in sentencing one of the would-be Facebook rioters, one judge explained, "This happened at a time when collective insanity gripped the nation. Your conduct was quite disgraceful and the title of the message you posted on Facebook chills the blood." The Facebook posts were said to have "caused significant panic and revulsion in local communities as rumors of anticipated violence spread," although none occurred.
The NYPD responded in turn to the disorder overseas by launching their own Social Media Unit, which will scan sites like Twitter, Facebook and Myspace for open brags about crime or potentially dangerous situations. Meanwhile, an English police officer insisted, "The sentences passed down recognize how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity and sends a strong message to potential troublemakers."