London Mayor Doesn’t See Need to Restrict Twitter in Riots
London Mayor Boris Johnson said he doesn’t see a need for Britain to give police powers to restrict social media such as Twitter Inc. during riots because the information is often useful in quelling disturbances.
Johnson, testifying before the Parliamentary Home Affairs committee, also said police aren’t pressing for greater latitude to use rubber bullets or water cannons.
In August, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said the government was considering whether to block social-networking sites and message services to hamper looters and violence. Johnson and Tim Godwin, acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police, were questioned today by the committee about causes and responses to last month’s riots in London and other English cities, the worst since the 1980s.
“The view I’m getting, this is not seen as a clear benefit for the police,” Johnson told the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee in London. “There are intel advantages to being able to track this stuff.”
Police themselves use Twitter to communicate, or spread messages, and blocking social media would be a “net negative,” Godwin said.
Godwin and Johnson said police aren’t seeking additional power to use water cannons or baton rounds, commonly known as rubber bullets.
Prisons Not Hospitals
The baton rounds are reserved for situations where there is “a threat to life within the crowd, and we don’t think we were facing that situation,” Godwin said. “It makes me proud we filled prison places rather than hospital beds, and that’s the British way of policing.”
The baton rounds were authorized, but not used, he said. Water cannons have never been used on mainland Britain.
Police were initially unprepared for the speed and scale at which disorder spread, with 22 of 32 London boroughs facing “serious disorder,” Godwin said.
“We were not expecting that level and the spread of copycatting of sheer criminality,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Altaner in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge in London at Ckeatinge@bloomberg.net
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