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. Image credit: Met 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.