Facebook & RIM To Meet UK Government: Social Media Outage?

Last week’s news was dominated by one story, the UK rioting. Social media also came under the spotlight, being cited as the tool in which the rioters used to organize their crimes. Facebook, Twitter and RIM’s IM service BlackBerry Messenger have all been highlighted as aids to the gangs, with some even calling for them to be temporarily banned last week. Facebook and Research In Motion are both set to meet with the UK government next week to discuss what has gone on.

The companies are due to meet the Home Secretary Theresa May, discussing how their services were used in the rioting last week. One of the main functions of these social networking services are quick contact for free and in some cases without trace. Facebook and Twitter as you know allow the user to contact people at speed, even large groups in a short space of time. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was the favored service the rioters used to plan their attacks as it is also untraceable.

Twitter despite being involved in London’s chaos has said that it will not attend the meeting but has said “they are happy to listen”. According to Mashable, Facebook took the opposite stance and said they were more than happy to co-operate with officials to resolve these problems. Facebook’s statement said that the company looked forward to explaining the measures the site would take to ensure it was a safe and positive platform. The London Riots actually trended as the highest topic on Twitter this week.

It is clear that the mass use of these services would cause an uprising if they were banned. The right to free speech is very import and and when people are denied that, severe problems are caused. Countries like China, Libya and Egypt blocked these social sites and the people’s right to free speech and look at what happened. U.S. journalist Jeff Jarvis has said that “Censorship is not the path to civility, only free speech is”. Restricting these services would make us no better than these other countries.

Prime Minister David Cameron surprised the nation last Thursday by announcing these social sites would be examined over the parts they played in these riots. The PM mulled over whether it would be possible to prevent suspected criminals from accessing the service. We saw last week how convicts in California jails are losing their right to Facebook as they are all having their accounts terminated.

It will be interesting to see what comes from these meetings but I highly doubt we will see these social services banned for the masses. If they continue to be used as means of organizing crime then do the government have no choice but to out them? Let us know your thoughts on this subject by leaving a comment.