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Cameron loves net freedom – as long as no one's rioting

'Gov doesn't own, run or shape the internet'

By Brid-Aine Parnell, 1 Nov 2011

LCC UK Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that government “doesn’t own the internet, run the internet or shape the internet”, despite having said that he was considering shutting down social media during the London riots.

Cameron said in a speech to the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC) today that the task of the international community was to strike the right balance in protecting net users from criminals and terrorists and allowing freedom online.

“Governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship, or to deny their people the opportunities that the internet represents,” the prime minister said, echoing earlier sentiments from Foreign Secretary William Hague at the conference.

“We cannot go the heavy-handed route. Do that and we’ll crush all that’s good about the internet – the free flow of information, the climate of creativity that gives life to new ideas and new movements.”

However, Cameron told Parliament after the riots that “we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”.

Shortly after, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry were called in front of a Home Affairs committee to talk about their services’ role in the rioting and looting that took place in August, but no action was taken in the end.

The Prime Minister also said in the speech that the Foreign Secretary had told him there were “some detailed and productive conversations so far today” between the delegates at the conference, hinting that the UK is looking to start meaningful agreements on the future of cyberspace rather than just chat.

Cameron reiterated the UK’s commitment to cyber security during his speech, saying it was a “real and pressing concern”.

“These are attacks on our national interest. They are unacceptable. And we will respond to them as robustly as we do any other national security threat,” he said.

“Internationally, we’re inviting others to join us in a network wide enough and powerful enough to face this threat down,” he added. ®