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Keep calm and carry on networking, says UK.gov

Tweeting while London burns is OK

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Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry representatives met with Home Secretary Theresa May at lunchtime to have what ended up being a somewhat lighter discussion than expected about social networks used in relation to criminal activity.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs, who were forced to cut short their holidays and return to Parliament on 11 August in the wake of the English riots, that he was considering such tech being barred when used by baddies.

But such a consideration, which has been rejected by pretty much every right-thinking netizen across the land, appears to have been shelved today.

Instead the Home Office said its talk with Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry focused much more heavily on how those companies can cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

In a statement, the government department made no mention of threats to cut off access to would-be crims who were using social networks to incite violent disorder in the UK.

The Register understands that the meeting mainly involved talks about how the police could more effectively use social networks during times of potential crisis in Blighty, rather than working out ways to restrict usage.

"We found today's discussion at the Home Office constructive and built on much of the work we are already doing with the UK authorities to ensure Facebook remains one of the safest places on the internet," said Facebook in a statement.

We welcome the fact that this was a dialogue about working together to keep people safe rather than about imposing new restrictions on internet services. We were pleased to highlight our array of effective reporting tools and the relationships we have built with Law Enforcement to keep the site safe for the 30 million people in the UK use Facebook – especially during times of crisis.

We were also able to revisit the positive role Facebook played during the riots – from letting friends and family know they are safe to helping facilitate local clean-up operations. There is no place for illegal activity on Facebook and we take firm action against those who breach our rules.

Blackberry hadn't immediately provided us with a statement at time of writing.

Twitter offered this canned statement:

"Governments and law enforcement agencies around the world use Twitter to engage in open, public communications with citizens. We've heard from many that Twitter is an effective way to distribute crucial updates and dispel rumors in times of crisis or emergency.

"People also use Twitter as a the first place to get information, monitor quickly changing events in real-time, and connect with friends, family and their communities. We are always interested in exploring how we can make Twitter even more helpful and relevant during times of critical need."

During the England riots it was indeed clear that the cops were just as engaged with social networks as the rest of the British population.

Many police officers used Twitter and other sites to respond to reported disturbances that had been fabricated, for example. They also tweeted plenty of info about individuals who had been cuffed for taking part in looting, arson and other criminal behaviour. ®

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