A top level executive at Facebook has given an insight into the seemingly impervious position the website has from UK government censorship.
Joanna Shields, vice president of Facebook Europe, spoke at a conference in London, dismissive of being taken down by the government in the event of further civil unrest.
As reported in the Telegraph, Shields responded to a query over whether David Cameron would shut down Facebook with a firm rebuttal: “I don’t think that is ever going to happen,” she said. In fact, the relationship with the UK government is “very strong”, she continued.
It is interesting, though, that during the height of this summer's JD Sports pillage, the government seemed quite in opposition to such a definite stance.
In fact, it was only after some consideration that the government decided against a move to shut down or censor Twitter and other social networking sites. Critics said they couldn't, really, anyway. So why does Shields appear so confident?
As far as the government is concerned, it has more to lose by blacklisting Facebook.
Aside from clear concerns about freedom of speech, when it was announced the government wanted to sling some people in jail for making bad jokes on the social network, it has a very useful tool.
By keeping the social network operational, the authorities were able to monitor the behaviour of the population looking to ‘acquire’ a new plasma telly, or indeed organise any sort of civil disobedience.
Shields said that if people are up to mischief and are letting others know about it on Facebook then they “were probably going to get caught anyway”. And she is right. Just ask two site users who posted information about a fictional riot, landing them hefty jail sentences.
Facebook is a powerful tool for the government to monitor its serfs, but as the jailed ‘rioters’ case showed it also sends out a very powerful message. It shows in no uncertain terms who is in control.
According to Privacy International, the appeal of a functioning Facebook network during times of unrest are clear. And as Shields mentions, the government is keen that these avenues remain open.
“Allowing Facebook and other social media networks to remain online and accessible would
allow the authorities to monitor users who are participating in or inciting public disorder,” a spokesperson for Privacy International told TechEye.
“Under the Communications Capabilities Directorate, the Home Office is already devising methods for infiltrating social networks on a mass scale.
“The danger is that the government will use the riots as an excuse to expand programmes that infringe the right to privacy far beyond what is actually necessary for law enforcement