In his speech to an emergency session of Parliament last Thursday, the prime minister said: ‘We are looking 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.’
Social media and the BlackBerry Messenger service were pinpointed by the media as the means used by rioters and looters to organise disruption.
Rich Leigh, Yetis account director, said Cameron’s speech was a ‘knee-jerk reaction’. He added: ‘The suggestion that social media should be policed in this way is reminiscent of some sort of Orwellian dystopia, begging the question, given that social media is just one facilitator of communication, how controlled could our interaction with others, even face-to-face, become?’
Speed MD Steve Earl said: ‘The riots probably were organised by social media. But to blame them for fuelling the disorder is like blaming people for having a mouth or ears.’
‘The challenge for law enforcers is to be able to develop their ability to track and act upon information shared on social networks, as they do information shared by other means, and that’s a moving target because the technology evolves so quickly.’
The threat to control the use of social media comes after police in Finland announced plans to step up web surveillance after the Anders Behring Breivik attacks.
Additionally, conservative politicians in Germany are using the Norwegian attacks to press for revisiting data retention laws that were ruled unconstitutional last year.