Social-networking sites resist calls to restrict use during unrest


Social networking sites are expected to resist measures cracking down on their use during civil unrest at a summit between government ministers, police and industry leaders today.

The Prime Minister threatened to ban rioters from Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath of the violence in cities earlier this month. However, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will seek a compromise with executives from the sites during talks in London, despite calls from some quarters that police should be given the power to pull the plug on services at times of tension.

The use of social media by looters was one of the key characteristics of this summer's wave of violence and will be discussed at the Whitehall meeting attended by leading representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Research In Motion, the company which makes BlackBerry devices which were reportedly deployed by groups to orchestrate disturbances.

Some police forces are understood to be opposed to a total ban on the sites which are closely monitored by officers to gather intelligence on impending trouble. The acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Tim Godwin, told MPs that he had considered seeking to have Twitter shut down during the height of the lawlessness.

Social networking sites believe they have sufficient internal safeguards in place to prevent them being hijacked by gangs of would-be rioters and will reject pressure to give police or politicians greater control over them. But Mrs May is likely to press executives on ways of introducing still stronger measures.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Social networking is not a cause of the recent disturbances but a means of enabling criminals to communicate. We are working with the police to see what action can be taken to prevent access to those services by customers identified as perpetrators of disorder."

A spokeswoman for Facebook said it had acted in recent days to remove "credible threats of violence" from the site. "We look forward to meeting with the Home Secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform for people in the UK," the spokeswoman added.

More people appeared in court yesterday accused of using social networking sites to encourage rioting. Four men were ordered to return to Preston Crown Court in October in connection with the disturbances. Magistrates in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, heard how Hollie Bentley, 19, posted Facebook messages encouraging a "Wakey riot". She did not offer a plea and was told her case would be dealt with in a Crown Court.

Greater Manchester Police continue to use social media to round up suspected rioters. The force posted more CCTV images on Flickr of people attacking shops in the city centre. Officers raided a flat in Salford yesterday after the picture of a suspected looter was posted on the site.

A 16-year-old boy who admitted using Facebook to incite thefts and criminal damage during the riots has been identified after a court order protecting his anonymity was lifted. Johnny Melfah, of Droitwich, Worcestershire, is due to be sentenced on 14 September at Worcester youth court.

Court jails two rioters

The first two men to be sentenced in a crown court for their part in the London riots were jailed yesterday.

Richard Bezzina, 43, received 20 months for violent disorder in Hackney on 8 August, and Steven Frear, 20, was sentenced to six weeks for possessing an offensive weapon in Enfield on 10 August. The cases were heard at Wood Green Crown Court in north London.

Bezzina had pleaded guilty at Thames magistrates' court on 13 August. Frear had pleaded guilty at Enfield magistrates' court on 12 August.

David Robinson, London Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, said that the prosecutions served as a "strong reminder" the CPS would take firm action to deal with "this sort of criminal behaviour which affects the whole community".

He added: "Across London, opportunists committed very serious acts ... at night when communities feel at their most vulnerable. Over the coming months we will prosecute many more people in relation to the disturbances."

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam