25 Aug 2011

Riots meeting to focus on role of social networking sites

3:48 pm on 25 August 2011

Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry executives will meet the British Home Secretary on Thursday to discuss whether their users should be blocked when they are plotting violence and criminality.

The likes of BlackBerry Messenger - a service which allows users to send free-of-charge real-time messages - is said to have enabled looters and others to organise their movements during recent riots, leaving no paper trail.

Troublemakers also harnessed the power of the social networking websites to incite unprecedented levels of civil disobedience, PA reports.

The four-day frenzy of looting, arson and violence started in London on 6 August and spread to other major cities and towns, including Manchester and Birmingham. More than 2300 people have been arrested.

Home Secretary Theresa May will hold talks with representatives from the social media industry to gauge how far the authorities could go with this.

Delegates from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker RIM will be joined by Lynne Owens, assistant commissioner of central operations at the Metropolitan Police, and civil servants from the Foreign Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Ms May will lead the private meeting along with security minister James Brokenshire and a member of the National Security Council.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs after the riots that the government was speaking to the industry and police to establish how to stop the internet being a tool for troublemakers to organise disruption.