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Guardian / The Hindu / LONDON, August 13, 2011.
While some politicians have called for a ban on social networking sites for inciting violence, the police have maintained that social networking sites help in dispelling rumours - AP.
Louise Mensch, the British Conservative MP and one of the UK parliament’s more active Twitter users, has backed prime minister David Cameron’s call for social networking services to be shut down temporarily during civil disorder.
Mensch, a successful novelist, used Twitter to call for a “brief temporary shutdown” of Twitter and Facebook to stop unfounded rumours being spread, as she said had occurred last week during the riots that spread from London to several cities across England.
“Common sense. If riot info and fear is spreading by Facebook & Twitter, shut them off for an hour or two, then restore. World won’t implode,” she said.
“I don’t have a problem with a brief temporary shutdown of social media just as I don’t have a problem with a brief road or rail closure. If short, necessary and only used in an emergency, so what. We’d all survive if Twitter shut down for a short while during major riots.”
However, on Friday, police in Manchester, in the north west of England, which was hit by the rioting earlier this week, backed the use of social networks, saying they have allowed authorities to correct rumours before they gather momentum.
Kevin Hoy, web manager at Greater Manchester police, said Twitter allowed them to give “direct reassurance” and “dispel rumours ... in a way that we could never have achieved previously”.
The force said Twitter had been an “overwhelmingly positive” and “vital” channel of communication as violence spread across the region. It has urged its 95,000 Twitter followers to “name and shame” suspected rioters in CCTV images it has posted online.
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