updated 09:40 am EDT, Thu August 11, 2011
Government might shut down sites in emergencies
At a special session of Parliament Thursday morning, UK Prime Minister David Cameron blamed social media sites for the way they were used to organize riots in London and other cities in England this week. Cameron suggested allowing law enforcement to track activity on social media sites to prevent them from being used to plot "violence, disorder and criminality." RIM reportedly had been cooperating with police before Cameron made his remarks.
Cameron alleged that rioters had relied heavily on BlackBerry Messenger, a closed system, to direct the rioting. Other social media sites like Facebook or Twitter were allegedly also used to organize criminal activity during the riots but are more open to inspection. Several arrests have been made based on information collected on Facebook, according to sources.
After Cameron spoke, the government announced Home Secretary Theresa May would be meeting with executives from Facebook, Twitter and RIM.
Parliament is now debating whether the government should have the power to shut down social media services in similar emergencies in the future. The representative from the Tottenham area where the trouble began last Saturday, David Lammy, has already indicated his support for shutting down BBM during a crisis. He announced his support in a tweet on Tuesday.
Britain would not be the first country to demand that RIM allow police monitoring. Following the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, RIM avoided a shutdown of BBM by allowing the government to access the service. [via The Next Web (UK)]