Londoner gets two years for Facebook riot posts

Londoner gets two years for Facebook riot posts

Summary: An Islington man who set up a Facebook group encouraging others to take part in the London riots in August has been sentenced to serve two years in a young offenders institute.Terry Balson set up a Facebook group encouraging others to take part in the London riots.

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An Islington man who set up a Facebook group encouraging others to take part in the London riots in August has been sentenced to serve two years in a young offenders institute.

Terry Balson

Terry Balson set up a Facebook group encouraging others to take part in the London riots. Image credit: Met Police

Terry Balson was sentenced in Wood Green Crown Court on Tuesday over incitement to riot, according to the Metropolitan Police.

Officers monitoring social media sites as part of their investigation into the disturbances came across Balson's Facebook 'For the Riot (F**k the feds)' page, according to the Met. The 20-year-old urged people to go to Barnet High Road to take part in the disturbances and tried to set up a meeting of would-be rioters in Wood Green, the police said.

Several people used Twitter and Facebook to identify Balson as the person behind the Facebook group, which the defendant admitted to setting up on 9 August. More than 70 members of the public called the police about his Facebook comments, according to the Met.

In the wake of the August riots, prime minister David Cameron said those "using social media for violence" had to be stopped. Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger provider Research In Motion met with government representatives to discuss whether social media communications should be shut down during disturbances.

Balson's detention is a sign that months after the disturbances themselves, police are continuing to pursue those who used social media to spread the call for riot. Other jail terms followed soon after the events, as with the two men sentenced in August to four years over Facebook posts.

While the Met has rebuffed the idea that its officers are tracking activity on social media, ACPO's head of e-crime prevention said recently that police forces are watching social networks to gather evidence of wrongdoing.

"If your Facebook is open and you allow people to come in — tough, we will do it," deputy chief constable Stuart Hyde told the Counter Terror Expo on 26 April.

Topic: Tech Industry

Karen Friar

About Karen Friar

Karen Friar is news editor for ZDNet in the UK, based in London. She started out in film journalism in San Francisco, before making the switch to tech coverage at ZDNet.com. Next came a move to CNET News.com, where she looked after west coast coverage of business technology, and finally a return to her homeland with ZDNet UK.

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