Cameron hints at social media crackdown

Cameron hints at social media crackdown

Summary: The government is considering whether social media services should be shut off at times of disorder, the British prime minister, David Cameron, has told parliament.Cameron's comments were made in a speech to the House of Commons on Thursday.

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The government is considering whether social media services should be shut off at times of disorder, the British prime minister, David Cameron, has told parliament.

Cameron's comments were made in a speech to the House of Commons on Thursday. Parliament has been recalled from its summer recess to respond to the violent disorder that has affected London, Manchester, Birmingham and other UK cities.

"Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media," Cameron said. "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill."

"When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them," he added in a statement.

To that end, the government is working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to cut people off from social media when they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality, he said.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has already promised to help police examine what role BlackBerry Messenger played in riots in North London earlier in the week.

Police forces are already targeting people who plotted disorder on social media. "If you have been using social networking sites to incite disorder, expect us to come knocking on your door very soon," Greater Manchester Police tweeted on Wednesday.

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Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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4 comments
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  • Hmm...how fickle the winds of social networking blow. The likes of twitter and facebook were heralded very recently as the instruments of democracy during the anti-government protests of Egypt and the middle east, whose own leaders no doubt saw them as tools used by a minority of people to cause violence and disruption to a country. When those governments begun the process of turning off access for its people to internet services we were all outraged as I remember.
    Turning off social media services during civil unrest will simply lead to other forms of mass communication by people. If this is the route to be taken then are we seriously considering blocking every website forum where messages of dissent could be posted? As most sites contain a forum of one kind or another then a large part of the web will have to be blocked at any one time, including ones like ZDNet.
    Balthar-51f7b-24734794226709899630538958587428
  • I think what the U.K. should do is what many American Police departments are doing. Form a social media monitoring task force and keep an eye out for people planning violence and that way they have a leg up before those ungrateful cronies even know it.
    anonymous
  • I agree...I don't see how this makes the UK any different that Egypt or Iran or Syria or China.
    anonymous
  • @Calvin Blair. Of course it's different. It's a question of proportionality. Terrorists activity and criminal activity cannot be allowed to go unchecked on the basis of phoney rights and freedoms. How can you compare maintaining law and order with the subjugation of the population seen in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Zimbabwe and many others.

    Whose rights do you think should prevail? The looters or the many small shop owners whose businesses were destroyed?
    The Former Moley