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Saturday, October 22, 2011

UK Government Loves Facebook

It appeared that Facebook has a seemingly impervious position from the country’s government censorship. Recently vice president of Facebook Europe Joanna Shields was speaking at a conference in the United Kingdom, dismissive of being taken offline by the authorities in the event of other civil unrest.

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The local media reported that Shields has responded to a question about whether David Cameron could take Facebook offline with a firm rebuttal, saying that she didn’t think that was ever going to happen. Moreover, she stressed that the relationship with the British government was extremely strong. However, many remember that during this summer the UK government seemed to be in opposition to this definite stance. Actually, it was only after some consideration that the authorities decided against a move to take offline or censor such social networks as Twitter and Facebook. Critics claimed they actually couldn’t, anyway, so it was unclear why Shields was so confident.

On the other hand, as far as the UK government is concerned, it had more to lose by banning Facebook. Apart from clear concerns about freedom of speech, when the authorities announced they wanted to sling a few people in prison for making bad jokes online, the government has a very useful instrument. Indeed, by keeping Facebook operational, the UK government was able to monitor the behaviour of the population, either looking forward to acquiring a new plasma TV, or even organize a kind of civil disobedience.

Facebook explained that if people were up to something bad and were letting everyone else know about this on social networks, then they perhaps were going to get caught anyway. And many would agree with this point of view, including a couple of Facebook users that published data about a fictional riot, landing them jail sentences.

Such network as Facebook is really a very powerful instrument for the government to track its serfs. However, the jailed “rioters” case indicated that it also sent out a very strong message, showing who is in control. So, the UK government is keen that Facebook remains open. Meanwhile, the Home Office is currently developing methods for infiltrating such social networks as Facebook on a mass scale.

The only suspicion is that the UK government can use the riots as an excuse to extend programs infringing the right to privacy far beyond the level necessary for law enforcement purposes.

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