Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry executives are due to meet the Home Secretary to discuss the recent riots in cities around England.Theresa May announced she would hold the meeting after suggestions social networking sites should be shut down during such public disturbances, to stop troubles spreading.Those at the meeting will discuss whether users of the sites should be blocked when they are seen to be planning violence or criminality.Services such as Blackberry Messenger – which allows users to send free-of-charge real-time messages – was said to have enabled looters and troublemakers to organise their movements during the recent riots, leaving no paper trail.
A Home Office source said there was “no suggestion” that any of the sites would be closed down.A spokeswoman for the department said: “The Home Secretary will meet the Association of Chief Police Officers, the police and representatives from the social media industry.”These discussions will help us determine how law enforcement and the networks can work better together.”Among the issues to be discussed is whether and how we should be able to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”Social networking is not a cause of the recent disturbances but a means of enabling criminals to communicate.
“We are working with the police to see what action can be taken to prevent access to those services by customers identified as perpetrators of disorder or other criminal action.”Facebook said it already prioritised its review of content on the site that is “egregious during sensitive times like the UK riots”.A spokesperson said: “We look forward to meeting with the Home Secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform for people in the UK at this challenging time.”In recent days, we have ensured any credible threats of violence are removed from Facebook and we have been pleased to see the very positive uses millions of people have been making of our service to let friends and family know they are safe and to strengthen their communities.”
The company pointed out that some of its sites – Supporting the Met Police Against The London Rioters for example – had received nearly one million “Likes”.Delegates from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker RIM will be joined by Lynne Owens, assistant commissioner of central operations at the Metropolitan Police.Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs after the riots that the Government was speaking to the industry and police to establish how to stop the internet being a tool for troublemakers to organise disruption. – Skynews