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Government won't boot rioters off social networks

The government has backed down on its plans to boot troublemakers off social networks like BBM and Twitter during unrest.

The Home Office has ditched plans to ban suspected rioters from social networks during times of unrest.

Yesterday representatives from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker RIM met with the home secretary, Theresa May. The Guardian reports that the government wasn't looking to restrict Internet services or close them down.

The Home Office said: "The 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."

Social networks took a lot of heat in the wake of the recent London riots, with BlackBerry Messenger (BBM to its mates) facing particular scrutiny. The free instant-messaging service for BlackBerry mobiles was allegedly used by rioters to co-ordinate the mayhem.

Facebook stated yesterday that the meeting with the Home Office had been "constructive". It seems the aim of the meeting was to figure out how the police could better get to grips with social networks, rather than shut them down.

We're rather relieved. In the aftermath of the rioting, David Cameron said that he wanted to give police the technology to trace offenders on social networks or close the sites down. That would have been a knee-jerk reaction.

The government isn't necessarily being soft, though. Two men who used Facebook to stir up trouble during the riots were each sentenced to four years in prison.

What's your response? Should the government keep its paws off our networks, or should police be allowed to shut them down when they deem it necessary? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our Facebook wall.