PM looking into social media clampdown after riots

Social media - brought into the spotlight after riots
Social media - brought into the spotlight after riots

In an emergency meeting with parliament today, prime minister David Cameron has revealed he is speaking to police about the role of social media in the riots and whether extreme measures like blocking those who are inciting violence through the sites.

The riots that have taken place in London and other areas of the UK have been much documented on social network sites, where we have seen both the good and the bad of how people use the sites.

Twitter was subject to much disinformation during the riots, but it also sparked the fantastic riot clean-up operations.

A number of people, however, have already been arrested for using both Twitter and Facebook to encourage rioting.

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organised via social media," explained Cameron.

"Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.

"So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

"I have also asked the police if they need any other new powers."

Social implications

While Cameron doesn't seem to be talking about a wholesale ban of social-networking sites while disorder is taking place – you only have to look to Egypt to see the repercussions of this – there is much talk that if you are seen to incite anti-social behaviour you will be cut off. Quite how this will be policed is up to much debate.

Later on in parliament, Cameron fielded another question about the videos and images of the riots that are appearing online and are seen to be glorifying the violence.

In a pop at media-upload sites, he noted: "Everyone has responsibilities, including social media companies who are displaying these images and that is the why the home secretary will be in meetings [with these companies] to see what can be done."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.