Following the riots that engulfed England earlier this month, social media such as Twitter, Facebook and even BlackBerry messaging found itself being blamed for helping the unrest. Even U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, asked “whether it would be right” to ban criminals from having access.
Thankfully, cooler heads seem to have prevailed – for now. At a meeting between U.K. authorities and representatives of Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion yesterday, U.K. Home Secretary Teresa May announced that the government has “no intention of restricting internet services” at this point, but were instead focused on how social media could be used more constructively during emergencies.
An official Home Office statement given following the meeting described the discussions as looking “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,” before going on to clarify that “[t]he government did not seek any additional powers to close down social media networks.”
Representatives from the social media companies that attended also seemed to be positive about the meeting, with Facebook calling it “constructive.”
Not everyone agrees, however; the New York Times talked to free speech activists concerned that the discussions will end with social media powers being curbed in some way, and quotes Jo Glanville as saying that Britain doesn’t “want to be on a list with the countries that have cracked down on social media during the Arab Spring.” Glanville added that authorities were just “out of touch” with social media usage.
It’s an idea that the authorities themselves agree with; according to The Guardian’s report of the meeting, police “acknowledged that they ‘needed to do more’ with regard to learning how to use social media” to the representatives present. Is it possible that these meetings will result in sensible public policy and a more contemporary British police force, now that reactionary demands are out the way?
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.