Debate: In the wake of the riots, should the government intervene to stop the internet becoming a tool for troublemakers to cause disruption?

UK: The head of Google said it would be “a mistake” for governments to try to interfere with the internet in the wake of the English riots.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs after the riots that the government was trying to establish how to stop the internet being a tool for troublemakers to organise disruption.

Dr Eric Schmidt said: “It’s a mistake to look in the mirror and decide to break the mirror. The fact of the matter is whatever the problem was ... whatever the underlying problem was, the internet is a reflection of that problem but turning on and off the internet is not going to fix it.

“You better fix whatever the underlying problem was.”

Asked about Twitter’s role during the escalating violence in London, Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin told the Home Affairs Select Committee last week that he had contemplated seeking the authority to switch it off.

But he added: “The legality of that is very questionable and additionally it is also a very useful intelligence asset.”

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Theresa May met police and executives from social media networks to see how they could help prevent them being used for criminal behaviour.

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But the government did not seek any additional powers to close down networks such as BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, the Home Office said.

n What do you think? Should the government stop the internet becoming a tool for troublemakers? Or should politicians avoid interfering with the web? Post your views below.

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