UK social media chiefs grilled

2011-09-15 18:45

London - The makers of BlackBerry admitted on Thursday social media could be used for "malicious purposes" but the vast majority of users were law-abiding, during a grilling by British lawmakers on August's riots.

Stephen Bates, managing director of Research in Motion in Britain and Ireland, insisted that social media was generally a "force for good", a position backed by executives from Facebook and Twitter during the hearing in London.

"There's no dispute that... social media was used for malicious purposes," Bates told parliament's home affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the four nights of unprecedented riots in English cities.

Commentators have dubbed them the "BlackBerry riots" because they were fuelled by the use of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), an instant messenger service on phones which can be shared between up to 30 people.

Bates acknowledged that "BlackBerry is the mobile phone choice of the youth of Britain" but said the majority of its seven million British users, who included many police officers and workers at top companies, were law-abiding.

The committee also quizzed Richard Allan, the director of policy for Facebook, and Alexander Macgillivray, general counsel responsible for public policy at Twitter, who flew in from California for the hearing.

The MPs heard that both BlackBerry and Facebook had received requests from the police for information about the riots, but no details were given.

Privacy concerns

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders criticised the Canada-based Research in Motion last month for helping police identify rioters who used BBM, citing privacy concerns.

Bates refused to disclose in public whether BlackBerry messages had been handed over to the authorities, saying only: "Whenever there is a legitimate response from the police we will respond to it."

Both Allan and Macgillivray meanwhile told MPs that Facebook and Twitter were too open to be of much use to criminals, and said they had found little evidence that they played a part in encouraging the rioters.

"We have not found, because our service is such a public service, that it's a particularly good tool for organising illegal activity," Macgillivray said of Twitter.

All three men opposed the idea of shutting down their services during disorder, noting that many people had used Twitter, Facebook and BBM to let friends and family know they were safe when the violence broke out.

Shops were looted and burned and five people were killed in the riots that erupted in London on August 6 and then spread to cities including Birmingham and Manchester in England's worst unrest for a generation.

Read more on:    facebook  |  rim  |  uk  |  security  |  online privacy
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

The rich will pay - Mpofu

The EFF in Gauteng will focus all its energy on improving the lives of the poor, the party's premier candidate Dali Mpofu says.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Century City - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Ratanga Road Southbound
    ROADWORKS - lane closure between Ocean Spirit Avenue and Century Boulevard (until mid April)
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Spine Road
    ROAD CLOSED between Weltevreden Drive and Seafarer Drive due to roadworks (until mid April)
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9790

Bold Design The BlackBerry Bold 9790 smartphone combines the iconic BlackBerry...

From R2979.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.