Throughout the day on Thursday, the Twitter-verse was abuzz with the news that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was considering censoring tweets in response to the looters using Twitter to communicate during the London riots.
Now, we’ve got Twitter’s official word on the matter.
You couldn’t expect that Twitter would be pleased that the Cameron government was talking – even in broad terms – about censoring the network during times of emergency.
Cameron himself made a statement about the riots that specifically calls out social media as something which fanned the flames of the violence and looting in London. The Telegraph has the full text of his speech, part of which includes the following:
“…everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.
Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.
And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.
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.”
The scary part there – for advocates of freedom of speech as well as companies like Twitter – is the fact that the government is considering censoring social networks if they feel that are being used for “plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
Hours after Cameron made his statements, All Things D reached out to Twitter and got a statement from Twitter PR exec Rachel Bremer. It’s naturally diplomatic, but quite open-minded:
“Our only comment is that if the government would like to talk about this we’d be happy to listen.”
So there you have it. If the government is serious about locking down Twitter when chaos breaks out (which, as it might affect rescue operations and helpful communication, is a whole different can of worms), Twitter will at least have an ear listening in on the decision.
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