London: Rattled by the August riots in London
and other English cities, Premier David Cameron wanted to shut
down access to Twitter, Facebook and the Blackberry network
that were allegedly being used to coordinate trouble.
Cameron, however, was cautioned by Foreign Secretary
William Hague not to do so, because such a blackout would be
exploited by countries like China as evidence of British
double standards on free speech and freedom of expression, the
`Daily Telegraph` reported today.
John Kampfner, the chief executive of the free speech
lobby group Index on Censorship, was quoted as saying that
Cameron was keen to impose Internet restrictions as the crisis
deepened and public concern grew.
No reference was made to this at the London Conference on
Cyberspace, but Cameron told the gathering yesterday: "We
cannot leave cyber space wide open to the criminals and
terrorists that threaten our security and prosperity".
According to Cameron, governments must not use cyber
security as an excuse for censorship, or to deny their people
the opportunities that the internet represents.
At the height of the riots, Hague had opposed the
shutting down of internet services, despite widespread claims
they were being used to encourage and organise disturbances.
He said it would undermine pressure on repressive regimes
to allow access to political web content and reduce their
spying on citizens, the paper reported.
The government later did not seek new powers to restrict
the Internet, but Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry
representatives were summoned to a meeting with the Home
Secretary two weeks after the riots.
In a speech to the conference on cyberspace, Hague said:
"Cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human
rights, nor can exploitation of digital networks by a minority
of criminals or terrorists be a justification for states to
censor their citizens."?
He added: "We reject the view that government suppression
of Internet, phone networks and social media at times of
unrest is acceptable... We saw in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya
that cutting off the Internet, blocking Facebook, jamming Al
Jazeera, intimidating journalists and imprisoning bloggers
does not create stability or make grievances go away.
"Journalists and bloggers must be allowed to express
themselves freely and safely and within international