The British Home Secretary will meet with the companies behind Twitter and BlackBerry to discuss whether they can help curb the nation's riots. It was only a few months ago that cracking down on social networks was considered the province of despots. Now the British government is making it sound like an essential step for safety.
Home Secretary Theresa May will meet with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBery maker Research in Motion to discuss "their responsibilities in not fueling rioting and other criminal behaviour," as TheNextWeb UK puts it. Translation: Police want to be able to easily tap into suspected rioters' private messages and profiles, or even shut down entirely private communications systems like Twitter's DMs and especially BlackBerry's BBM.
Indeed, as we noted in our previous roundup, on riot overreaction Prime Minister David Cameron has been asking Parliament questions like "are we going to give police the power to track activity on BlackBerry and Twitter?" and isn't being rhetorical. "Rioters were using BlackBerry—a closed network—so we have to examine that and figure out a way to get ahead of them," Cameron added. The MP represnting the area where violence first erupted has called for an outright suspension of the BlackBerry BBM message network, saying it was "clearly helping rioters outfox police," a position that is said to be gaining ground.
But why stop there? If you close BBM, people will revert to "email," a forgotten communications relic that allowed messages of nearly unlimited length and that apparently was the BlackBerry's original path to popularity. Then there are encrypted chats over various instant messaging networks. And let's not forget good old fashioned telephones. Britain will only be truly safe once authorities have shut down voice phones, email, IM, Facebook chat, Gtalk, ICQ, Twitter, Yammer, SMS, IRC, 4chan, LiveJournal, Foursquare and of course Color. Voice mail can stay, however, because in Britain that's effectively a completely public and transparent form of communication, always.