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No agreement in Facebook, Twitter riot ban talks

A meeting held by the UK government with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker RIM to discuss the recent London riots has ended without agreement, after the IT companies were expected to strongly oppose government threats to ban social media and private messaging services during future unrest.

Home Secretary Theresa May's meeting follows a call by prime minister David Cameron to shut down the services, which were accused to helping rioting to spread across the capital after it began in Tottenham on 6th August.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Cameron said: "So 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."

Signs are that the government's position may have softened. After the summit, Facebook said in a statement: "We found today's discussion at the Home Office constructive and built on much of the work we are already doing with the UK authorities to ensure Facebook remains one of the safest places on the Internet."

Playing down the threat of a ban, the statement continued: "We welcome the fact that this was a dialogue about working together to keep people safe rather than about imposing new restrictions on Internet services."

Facebook also emphasised the positive role social networking sites had played in the riots, helping to organise clean-ups in affected neighbourhoods in London and elsewhere - a point that was reinforced by a study published today by the UK's Guardian newspaper, which raised doubts over the alleged role that micro-blogging site Twitter played in fanning the flames.

What do you think? Is David Cameron right to seek censorship of social media - or is it an unwarranted infringement of civil liberties? Let us know in the comments section below.