Facebook, RIM confirm UK govt. meeting over riots; Twitter invite pending

Summary:Facebook is the first to confirm a meeting with the UK's Home Secretary about its involvement in the England riots earlier this month.

The three major social networks used during the London and wider England riots earlier this month -- Facebook, Twitter and Research in Motion's BlackBerry Messenger service -- have been called to the UK Home Office to discuss its roles in the riots.

Facebook has confirmed its attendance, reports the BBC, to the meeting on 25th August at the Home Office in London.

Update: A Research in Motion spokesperson told ZDNet that it will also be attending the meeting on Thursday. The BlackBerry maker said it "welcomes the opportunity for consultation together with other companies in the technology and telecommunications industry".

Twitter's invitation is still pending. It is not clear whether Twitter will attend.

(Image via Getty/Daily Mail)

As it became apparent that the technologies were being used by rioters and looters to cause havoc on the streets of England, and widespread disruption across the capital, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said last week she would "speak to the industry" about the role it played.

Facebook said in a statement:

"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".

It is likely to be discussed at the meeting on Thursday the industry's response to rioting, widespread disorder and states of emergency.

Britain's prime minister, David Cameron sparked controversy last week, suggesting in a speech given in Parliament that government should be able to 'disconnect' social networks and phone networks to prevent civil disorder.

Research in Motion is under pressure to explain its actions during the England riots, after BlackBerry users took to the secure Messenger application to disseminate targets for rioting and looting.

It comes as two of Britain's intelligence services -- MI5, and electronics interception agency, GCHQ -- have been brought in by the UK government to 'crack' the BlackBerry encryption, in a bid to prevent further disorder.

Facebook has also suffered heavy fire from politicians, along with Twitter, which said that the "tweets must flow" -- resonating the same feeling during the Arab Spring uprising earlier this year.

Many Facebook users "self-policed" the site, by reporting content that incited violence or disorder.

Last week, two men were sentenced to four years in prison for inciting violence on Facebook. The sentences were called "disproportionate" by some, after the messages did not come to fruition.

Related content:

Topics: BlackBerry, Mobility, Security, Social Enterprise

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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