Cameron ponders social media ban for rioters

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the government will look into whether rioters should be banned from using social media like Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerry Messenger to organize violent acts.

British PM also announces efforts for a national anti-gang strategy

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the government will look into whether rioters should be banned from using social media like Twitter, Facebook or BlackBerry Messenger to organize violent acts.

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media," Cameron told Parliament during an emergency session on Thursday. "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill."

"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."

BlackBerry's simple and largely cost-free messaging service was used by rioters to co-ordinate their activities, Cameron's office said.

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May will hold meetings with Twitter, Facebook and Research In Motion (RIM), to discuss their responsibilities, the Guardian reported

Cameron also said that British businesses, homeowners and communities affected by looting, arson and other violence over the last several days will be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance and other aid to rebuild in the wake of the worst rioting in decades.

"We will help you repair the damage, get your businesses back up and running and support your communities," Cameron said Thursday.

Cameron said any homeowner or business that suffered damage to or loss of buildings or property as a result of rioting can seek compensation under the country's riot damages act, even if uninsured.

He said while claims normally must be received within 14 days, the period will be extended to 42 days.

"We will not put up with this in our country," Cameron said Thursday as London police continued to conduct overnight raids to arrest suspects in the looting, arson and violence that began Saturday.

"We will not allow a culture of fear to exist in our streets. We will do whatever it takes to restore order and rebuild our communities."

Besides £200 million (about $320.4 million) expected to be paid out in insurance claims, £20 million (about $32 million) pledged to get businesses back up and running and deferred tax programs, Cameron announced plans to develop a national campaign by October to combat gang violence to help fix Britain's "broken society."

Evening of relative calm

The prime minister spoke during an emergency session of Parliament following an evening of relative calm in Britain's capital, except for some isolated incidents.

More than 100 warrants are being executed to round up suspects that may be behind some of the country's worst rioting in decades, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh.

Government post-riot aid

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the government aid package and measures for those affected by the riots includes:

  • A deferment of tax payments for businesses in greatest need.
  • Weeding out regulations that make it difficult for shops to put up protective shutters.
  • Establishment of a new £10-million recovery scheme that provides extra support for councils to make areas safe and clean.
  • Meeting the costs of emergency accommodation for families made homeless by riots.

Police have already arrested about 1,200 people nationally since the violence began on Saturday, and hundreds have been charged. Hundreds more people are expected to be in custody by the end of Thursday.

Prosecutors are working round the clock to deal with those who have already been arrested, said Dominic Valitis, a CBC freelance correspondent in London.

Valitis pointed out that London newspapers have identified everyone from a schoolboy, to a hairdresser, teacher and millionaire's daughter among those in custody. He added that it has also been learned an 11-year-old girl has been arrested.

Bolstered police presence is being credited with helping stem the tide of violence in London on Wednesday evening, as thousands of police officers patrolled the city with the help of armoured vehicles.

Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium told CBC that it’s estimated London businesses have lost $28.1 million in looted stock, and $129.4 million in retail sales.

"Overwhelming, people are utterly disgusted by what's going on," Dodd said from London, adding that "retailers are crucial elements of communites" and are "the lifeblood of communities."

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street following an emergency security meeting Wednesday, the prime minister noted that the addition of 10,000 police, for a total of 16,000, on the streets of London on Tuesday night and into the morning had helped curtail the violence.

Cameron said police have been authorized to use baton rounds (plastic bullets) and that a water cannon is available at 24 hours notice.

The riots started Saturday after the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was gunned down in Tottenham on Thursday. Police said Duggan was shot dead when officers from Operation Trident, the unit that investigates gun crime in the black community, stopped a cab he was riding in.

An inquest into Duggan's death opened Tuesday, but a full hearing will likely take several months.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating Duggan's shooting, said a "non-police firearm" was recovered at the scene, but that there was no evidence it had been fired.

With files from The Associated Press and BBC