Technology’s part in the recent riots here in Britain has been a big talking point, with Prime Minister David Cameron revealing in Parliament last week that he wants to “give the police the technology to trace people on Twitter or BBM, or close it down.”
These services have reportedly been used extensively to organize the riots and looting that have recently plagued English towns, and one 18-year-old girl has become the first to be charged for using RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger service to “encourage” rioters.
At the height of last week’s madness as riots spread across the U.K., the unnamed teenager allegedly used the messaging service to encourage her friends to go rioting in her home town of Clacton, Essex. According to TechRadar, she has been formally charged under the Serious Crime Act for “intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offense,” and is due to appear in court on September 1.
The list of people being charged for their involvement in these incidents continues to grow, but this is the first case in which police have specified the use of BlackBerry Messenger. My guess, however, is that it won’t be the last — the Prime Minister has made it clear that those found to have used the service to fuel these events could be banned completely from using instant message services and social networks:
“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.”
Some MPs called for social services to be shut down in Britain altogether while the problems continued to grow, but cutting us all off for the sake of a few thousand miscreants was always going to be unlikely. RIM did agree to assist the police in tracking down individuals who used its BBM service to organize riots, and here’s to hoping that this isn’t the last person to get their just deserts.