Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford (since 2010). Executive Member of 1922 Committee. Vice-Chair of APPG on Dementia. On CMS Select Committee.
"On Thursday, I intervened on the Home Secretary during her statement in the Commons about the use of social networking during the riots and disturbances in London and elsewhere. I wanted to make the point, in the confines of a short interjection, that there is a difference between open networks (Twitter, Facebook etc) and closed networks (Blackberry Messenger) and that future consideration of their advantages and disadvantages to public order should be distinguished as such. However, and I can not be clearer than this - not for one second do I think they should be closed down. Monitored, yes; accessible to the police in certain circumstances, yes; shut down, no and especially if we want our voice heard when we condemn the practices of other regimes that restrict access to social networks or a free press.
"We cannot have it both ways. We cannot on the one hand think that protests against an oppressive regime (a regime that viewed the "protests" as violent civil disturbances) organised on social networks is fine and should be encouraged and congratulated, but on the other hand violent civil disturbances in a democracy organised on social networks is not OK and should be curtailed. I do not for one minute condone the use of social networks by criminals, and the activities of last week were shocking, but the answer is not to oppress the use of Twitter, Facebook and even Blackberry Messenger, but to understand them, embrace their capabilities, and where necessary allow the authorities to use social network messages as evidence against perpetrators.
"I feel very uneasy about shutting down networks in times of civil disobedience. I campaign for greater civil liberties in other countries, so that fellow citizens of the world can enjoy the freedoms we in the UK have. It would be hugely hypocritical, and a massive victory for the oppressive dictatorial regimes we as a nation criticise, if we were to control social networks enjoyed by the law abiding majority because they can be abused by a criminal minority." 
Public affairs at Aviva.
Law at Hull.
Tracey Crouch MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA; email@example.com; 01634 673 180.
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