Social media companies respond to suggestions of ‘black-out’

Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry have responded to PM's ideas 'positively'
Kerry Butters
Kerry Butters -

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Social media companies have responded to the idea put forward by the Prime Minister last week that such services should be blacked out during times of social unrest, the Financial Times has reported.

We reported last week on David Cameron’s parliament address in which he said that social media could have contributed to the spread of the riots across the country.

Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry, the sites at the centre of the controversy over censoring information, responded to Cameron’s suggestions in a positive way, all stating that they would be happy to work with authorities over incitement during the riots.

Facebook responded by stating that they had already put teams in place to manually remove messages deemed dangerous and said they would “look forward” to meeting UK government officials.

Twitter and RIM also said they would be happy to work with authorities to see what could be done about any situations that may arise in the future.

But Mike Conrodi, partner at London law firm DLA Piper told the FT that he was unaware of any existing law that would allow the government to listen in to people’s communications en-masse in order to uncover individuals who are breaking the law.

Facebook say it has a number of measures that filter out posts which may be of concern and said that they have increased the number of staff who monitor the software in the wake of the riots and Norway shootings.

The social network site went on to say that its terms made it very clear that should anyone violate policies on threats of violence or illegal activity then they would have content removed and in some cases their accounts disabled.

However, Twitter is less stringent in the information it removes and its policies state that although the company doesn’t “always agree with the things people choose to tweet, [they] keep the information flowing irrespective of any view [they] may have about the content.”

Twitter does remove illegal and spamming tweets regularly but says that to monitor the huge amount of tweets made in one day would make for an impossible task, also citing ethical concerns on restricting freedom of expression.

It seems that all of the companies are willing to work with the authorities when threats of violence are made but this measure, if implemented, would have to be looked at carefully by the UK government.

Current legislation doesn’t allow officials to remove the rights of all its citizens, even during times of unrest, so it will be interesting to see if the government attempts to introduce new laws enabling them to do so.

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