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Social media blackout during riots not an option for government

Kathleen Hall

The government did not consider shutting down social media sites during the riots last month.

Speaking to a House of Commons select committee on policing large-scale disorder, home secretary Theresa May said: "[We are] absolutely clear that at no stage did we consider closing down social media networks."

May recently met with the Association of Chief Police Officers, Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry-maker RIM to discuss the use of social networks during the riots.

She told the select committee that police use of social networks was also discussed during the meeting. "The practice was patchy throughout the country. It is necessary we help the police understand how they can make best use of social media networks," she said.

Ways of ensuring social media is not used to encourage criminality were also discussed, May added.

Some of the strong sentences received by individuals who used social media would be instructive for those who may have thought about using it during the riots, she said.

After it was revealed that Blackberry Messenger was the main conduit for communication between rioters, the company was quick to announce its willingness to work with the police.


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