Following widespread allegations that rioters used social media services to coordinate, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed new plans to ban criminals from using sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
In his statement the acting Prime Minister (PM) clarified that he would "review" potential bans to see whether such policies would be possible.
The PM made the revelation in his opening statement during a Commons debate on Thursday.
"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill," commented Cameron.
"And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. 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."
As well as the potential new powers, Cameron also indicated his own belief that social networks had a responsibility to self-monitor and censor the content being posted.
In a question and answer session following the statement, the PM went on to reveal that the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, would meet with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion to discuss the three companies responsibilities regarding censoring dangerous messages.
In the same meeting Cameron also stated that all broadcasters, had a "responsibility" to hand
over any unused footage of the riots to the police. The PM did not clarify whether the government would seek to make this "responsibility" a legal mandate -- such attempts have previously met with fierce resistance from the British press.
Already numerous free speech activist groups have voiced discontent over the potential new powers. Speaking to the Guardian, Jim Killock, the executive director of online advocacy organisation Open Rights Group argued that such policies would undermine the UK's "fundamental" right of free speech.
Cameron's comments come in the wake of the series of riots that recently swept throughthe UK.
The riots started over the weekend in London's Tottenham area. They originally started as a protest against the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police. It was only later that the protest devolved into rioting and looting, subsequently spreading to numerous other cities, including Manchester and Birmingham.
The question of social media's role in the riots first arose on Tuesday evening when David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham appealed to RIM to shutdown its messenger service, claiming that rioters were using it to coordinate.
Since then UK law enforcement have arrested numerous individuals for using services such as Twitter to attempt to incite new riots. Most recently three individuals have been arrested on suspicion of using Twitter and BlackBerry messenger to incite new riots in Southampton.