Controlling social sites with suspension?

Tuesday 30th August 2011
Social Media sites. Courtesy: realestatexf20.com

In Beijing, China, several bloggers judged to have spread unfounded rumours are to have their accounts suspended for a month. In the UK however government has backed off from its plan to cut off suspected rioters from using social networking websites in times of civil unrest.

The operators of Sina.com’s Weibo Twitter-equivalent microblog detailed the announcements, to provoke a torrent of online protest, some of which was directed at the government on the assumption that it was behind the punishments.

"It was the clearest expression yet of that government’s growing concern about its inability to curb free expression on the Internet" reports the New York Times, "of particularly searing criticism of official acts, despite a sweeping and extremely sophisticated censorship regime."

In the UK, reports The Guardian, home secretary, Theresa May (right) told social networks at a meeting that the government had no intention of "restricting internet services."

Research in Motion (Blackberry-maker RIM) Facebook and Twitter were summoned to the meeting after David Cameron had pronounced a clampdown on the sites following the recent riots in England.

However, government ministers chose to focus on how law enforcement could better use Twitter and Facebook in such emergencies, with a Home Office spokeswoman describing the meeting as "constructive."

"Discussions looked at how law enforcement and the networks can build on the existing relationships and co-operation to prevent the networks being used for criminal behaviour. The government did not seek any additional powers to close down social media networks."

But if suspension of service is deemed an appropriate penalty for downloading-music-pirates, presumably it's not unreasonable that  a similar system could be enforced for those convicted of criminal damage and rioting.

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