Bloomberg News

RIM, Facebook Received Police Requests for U.K. Riot Information

September 15, 2011

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Research In Motion Ltd. and Facebook Inc. said they received requests for information about user activities from U.K. police investigating the country’s worst riots since the 1980s.

RIM’s BlackBerry messenger service was used by some of the rioters to organize and the acting police commissioner considered blocking social-networking websites and messaging services during the unrest, lawmaker Keith Vaz said today at a parliamentary hearing.

While “social media was used for malicious purposes,” it was also used as a “force for good,” Stephen Bates, RIM’s U.K. managing director, said at the hearing.

In August, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said the government was considering whether to block the websites and services to hamper looters and violence. Facebook said the government had since indicated it wouldn’t seek further powers.

A suspension of social media would be “an absolutely horrible idea,” Twitter Inc. General Counsel Alexander Macgillivray said at the same hearing.

Twitter wasn’t in discussions with the police, Macgillivray said. “There’s nothing they need from us.”

More than 3,300 people were arrested across the U.K. following the rioting in cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester, police have said. The violence caused Cameron to recall Parliament for an emergency session to discuss measures for dealing with the unrest.

The police need to develop new mechanisms for dealing with the “novelty factor” of social media, Richard Allan, Facebook’s European public policy director, said today. The company has contacts with the police so they “understand what they can and can’t ask for,” he said.

--Editors: Robert Valpuesta, David Risser.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at 2903130Z US <Equity> 798754Z US <Equity> RIM CN <Equity>

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