Facebook and Twitter riot clampdown opposed by human rights groups

Amnesty International and Index on Censorship voice concern ahead of home secretary's meeting with social networks

Leading human rights groups including Amnesty International and Index on Censorship have written to the home secretary, Theresa May, expressing concerns about a potential clampdown on social networks following the riots a fortnight ago.

The coalition of 10 human rights and free speech advocates said they were "very concerned" that new measures to curb Facebook and Twitter would be "susceptible to abuse" and "undermine people's privacy".

Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion are expected face down ministers' calls to restrict social networking in times of civil unrest at a Home Office summit on Thursday lunchtime.

For their part, May and the minister for security, James Brokenshire, are expected to row back on the prime minister's calls for suspected rioters to be banned from social networks in times of civil unrest at Thursday's meeting.

They are instead expected to discuss how law enforcement could better use Twitter and Facebook in emergencies.

"As you know, there is existing legislation regulating the interception and disclosure of communications information, the use of communications evidence by law enforcement and restrictions on people's use of communications technology," the open letter said.

"It is reasonable to review the existing legal regime to ensure that it appropriately fits new technologies.

"However, turning off, restricting or monitoring people's communications networks are matters that require extreme care and open, detailed deliberation."

The letter follows a study of riot-related tweets, compiled by the Guardian, that has cast doubt on the rationale behind David Cameron's recent proposal to ban potential rioters from Twitter and Facebook.

Representatives of the 10 leading human rights groups, including Brett Solomon, the executive director of Access, and Mike Blakemore, the media director of Amnesty UK, have signed the letter to May.

"We are very concerned that new measures, made in good faith but in a heated political environment, will overextend powers in ways that would be susceptible to abuse, restrict legitimate, free communication and expression and undermine people's privacy," they said.

"This is especially so if proposals involve unaccountable voluntary arrangements between law enforcement and communications providers."

The human rights groups have requested a meeting with the home secretary to discuss the government's plans.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediatheguardian.com or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook


Josh Halliday

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Twitter and Facebook riot restrictions would be a mistake, says Google chief
Eric Schmidt criticises David Cameron's proposal that potential rioters should be barred from social media. By James Robinson

James Robinson

27, Aug, 2011 @2:15 PM

Article image
Facebook and Twitter to oppose calls for social media blocks during riots

Ministers expected to row back from David Cameron's demand that suspected rioters be barred from websites. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

24, Aug, 2011 @12:06 PM

Article image
BlackBerry maker Rim to face MPs over riot claims

Committee to ask if BlackBerry Messenger was used to plan disorder – and also question Facebook and Twitter executives. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

15, Sep, 2011 @6:46 AM

Article image
UK riots: the questions social media giants need to answer
Dan Sabbagh: Social networks are to face questions from ministers over their role in the UK riots – could they do more to stop unrest?

Dan Sabbagh

24, Aug, 2011 @12:11 PM

Article image
England riots: could social networks have done more to stop unrest?

Readers share their concerns over social media blackouts and monitoring to tackle civil disobedience, as Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry maker RIM prepare to meet the home secretary

Laura Oliver

24, Aug, 2011 @5:39 PM

Article image
Social media has its own class divide | James Ball
James Ball: The choice of BlackBerry Messenger over Twitter in the recent UK riots illustrates the reality of social stratification in cyberspace

James Ball

08, Dec, 2011 @11:04 AM

Article image
Keep social media on during civil unrest, executives tell MPs
Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Rim say there is no evidence of their services being used to plan riots in August. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

15, Sep, 2011 @3:23 PM

Article image
London riots: how BlackBerry Messenger played a key role

Police looking on Facebook and Twitter for signs of unrest spreading will have missed out – they should have watched BBM. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

08, Aug, 2011 @11:24 AM

Article image
Riot cleanup campaign launched on Twitter and Facebook

Social networking sites being used to help in effort to clear debris from streets following another night of unrest in London

James Ball

09, Aug, 2011 @10:49 AM

Article image
Facebook and Twitter fuel iPhone and BlackBerry addiction, says Ofcom

Regulator says half of British teenagers and 25% of adults now have smartphones as sales outstrip regular mobiles. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

03, Aug, 2011 @11:01 PM