Stiff penalties for UK rioters
02:33 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The British government doesn't appear likely to limit access to social networks

After the violent riots, the prime minister suggested blocks should be in place

A U.K. official said Thursday that the current plans wouldn't involve bans, a source said

CNN  — 

A meeting on Thursday between the British government and Internet communications firms was friendly, not confrontational, according to people from the organizations that took part in the meeting.

At the meeting, the government “did not seek any additional powers to close down social media networks,” the British Home Office, the government’s home security department, said in a statement. “The discussions looked at how law enforcement and the networks can build on the existing relationships and cooperation to crack down on the networks being used for criminal behavior.”

Spokespeople for the British Home Office declined to provide additional details about whether it broached the issue of imposing limits social media.

The gathering took place about two weeks after British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the government should impose limits on the “free flow of information” when it’s “used for ill.” “When people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them,” he said then.

Twitter took the brunt of the blame immediately following the violent rioting and looting in England. However, people mostly used private lines like BlackBerry Messenger to organize, rather than Twitter or Facebook, later reports found.

“RIM continues to maintain an open and positive dialogue with the UK authorities and continues to operate within the context of U.K. regulations,” a RIM spokeswoman said in a statement late Thursday. “It was a positive and productive meeting, and we were pleased to consult on the use of social media to engage and communicate during times of emergency.”

The U.K. was still entertaining the idea of limiting social media usage shortly before Thursday’s meeting. In a statement released beforehand, the Home Office said: “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 or other criminal action.”

Instead of detailing plans to block criminals’ access to networks, police and government officials solicited advice from those in attendance about how to monitor the sites, the organizations said. Spokeswomen for the Home Office and for Facebook described the meeting as “constructive.”

“We welcome the fact that this was a dialog about working together to keep people safe rather than about imposing new restrictions on Internet services,” the Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. She noted that Facebook already has rules in place to punish illegal activity on the site.

A Twitter spokeswoman said that governments and police rely on its service to distribute alerts. “We are always interested in exploring how we can make Twitter even more helpful and relevant during times of critical need,” she said in a statement after Thursday’s meeting.