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Following statements by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in the wake of riots which rocked England, suggesting that social networking sites and services should possibly be shut down in times of civil unrest, representatives from Facebook, Research In Motion, and Twitter are today set to meet government officials.
Though Cameron’s initial statement that the “free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill… [perhaps] it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality” had some worrying about infringements on civil liberties, his government has since shifted its focus regarding social networks.
The meeting is now set to look at how police can use social networks to broadcast information to law-abiding citizens and track down those breaking the law. Representing the UK government at the meeting will be UK Home Secretary Theresa May.
In response to queries regarding the meeting, Facebook released a statement saying, “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.”
Facebook, the first to cooperate with UK authorities, is putting teams together to work to remove messages deemed to incite violence and criminality, has also made its opposition to any form of “ban” known. The world’s most popular social network will, at the meeting, be looking to stress how social media can be used as a positive tool in times of trouble.
Blackberry manufacturer RIM has perhaps been most under the spotlight as it is believed that messages sent on its encrypted BBM network were used to coordinate violence and looting in the midst of the riots.
In efforts to explain the violence, the Conservative Party leadership has looked to everything from social networks to “moral decline”. This has led to former Prime Minister Tony Blair to making a rare foray, since leaving power, into UK domestic politics writing that incorrect analysis by politicians risked producing the wrong responses to the violence.