Closing social networks would not serve the public interest, UK MPs told

Closing social networks would not serve the public interest, UK MPs told

As we reported yesterday, Twitter, Facebook and Research in Motion (RIM) were to face UK MPs again today, to discuss a way forward following the riots that blighted the UK back in August. And not surprisingly, all three companies are united in their belief that shutting down social media platforms during public disorder would be a bad idea.

Indeed, Twitter even went so far as to tell MPs that it would be a “horrible idea” to close social networking sites at any time, reports the Guardian.

Facing the Home Affairs Select Committee today, representatives from the three tech companies said that they had seen “no evidence” that showed their respective social networking services had been used to coordinate the riots and looting. And BlackBerry-makers RIM, along with Facebook, said that they have already handed information about alleged rioters to the authorities as part of their investigation.

Executives from the companies also told the MPs that social networks were actually a positive force, and restricting the sites as in some Middle Eastern states wasn’t a good idea.

“We think it’s an absolutely horrible idea to suspend [social networks] during important times”, said Alexander Macgillivray, the general counsel for Twitter. Macgillivray also sought to distinguish Twitter from other social networks, noting that it tends to get “lumped in” with other platforms when Twitter is very much about saying things publicly rather than privately.

And Richard Allan, the director of policy for Facebook in the EMEA region, said that placing restrictions on social networks “would not serve the public interest”, before saying: “We are extremely pleased that the home secretary has indicated that there is no intention to restrict internet services and we hope that position is sustained after this committee has concluded”.

Indeed, Allan reiterated the point the positive side of Facebook during the riots, saying: “Literally we found a handful of cases where people were doing things which were serious organisation as opposed to the good stuff or what you might call joke activity.”

Another day in the UK limelight for the three tech companies, but it doesn’t look like we’re any closer to seeing a mandatory shutdown implemented any time soon.

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