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Scotland Yard: BBM Fueled London Riots

by Adriana Lee | August 9, 2011August 9, 2011 6:00 am PDT

The U.S. has seen its fair share of unrest in the streets, but there was a stunning aspect of the riots in north London — the tools Tottenham looters used to coordinate their attacks. Among them was Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the latter of which is drawing great scrutiny by Scotland Yard.

BBM stands out as one of the top tools used in the large-scale disturbance that began last Saturday. BlackBerry phones, which are owned by 37 percent of British teenagers, are more widespread than iOS or Android devices. And the BBM instant messaging platform is free yet private, thanks to encryption that makes tracing messages a tough proposition. Users blast one-to-many messages telling friends where and when to loot, and then word spreads further on Twitter and Facebook. Authorities were transfixed on the social media platforms, but couldn’t zero in on the BBM messages, leaving them in a constant state of catching up.

Canada-based BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has already said that it will cooperate with police, but it’s not quite that simple. RIM has previously said that they’re unable to unencrypt BBM messages. And even if it could, it would be very likely to open up a storm of negative backlash against the company.

Although singling out BBM, Scotland Yard isn’t overlooking the other social media platforms. It vows that anyone found to be “inciting violence” will not go unpunished.

As of this writing, the third night of violence following the shooting death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old who sustained fatal shots fired by police, showed no sign of stopping. In fact, it was expected to spread to other parts of the U.K.

For more, check out The Guardian’s comprehensive coverage of the riot starting with the source link.

[via The Guardian]


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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