Noting how social media, particularly the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, were used to organise this week’s intense riots, David Cameron today told parliament that the government is looking into banning people from using social networking sites if they are thought to be organising criminal activity. He added that home secretary Theresa May will hold meetings with Facebook, Twitter and Research In Motion within weeks to discuss their responsibilities in this area. Cameron also said that broadcasters such as the BBC and Sky News have a responsibility to hand over unused footage of the riots to police, despite the fact that, due to concerns over damaging broadcasters’ editorial independence, attempts to enforce this in the past have been met with resistance.
Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy said today:
“David Cameron must not allow legitimate anger over the recent riots and looting in the UK to be used in an attack on free expression and free information. Too often, channels of communication, whether Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerry Messenger are seen as the culprits in acts of violence and anti-social behaviour, rather than merely the conduit. While police in investigations should be able to investigate relevant communications, there should be no power to pre-emptively monitor or suspend communications for ordinary social media users.”