London riots entered their third night on Monday, reportedly prompting Tottenham MP David Lammy to call for the suspension of the BlackBerry Messenger service some rioters are using to organize their movements. As Sky News reported:
The nearly free, non-public BBM service is credited with allowing the rioters to coordinate movements. As ABC reports, the service is popular among young Brits, who referred repeatedly to the service on Twitter over the weekend. "The news ain't even showing the extent of what's actually happening on the streets of tottenham? BBM is doing da ting right now!" read one tweet, according to ABC.
Explaining the appeal of the service for the rioters, blogger Jonathan Akwue wrote, "BBM, as it is known, is an instant messenger system that has become popular for three main reasons: it's fast (naturally), it's virtually free, and unlike Twitter or Facebook, it's private." Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which have received accolades for their roles in recent uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, BBM, which allows users to share messages by exchanging PINs, is not a public forum. "The key point here is that although these messages are spreading virally, by being shared via BBM they have been less visible to the outside world, making them harder to track," Akwue noted.
Research in Motion, the manufacturer of BlackBerry phones, released the following statement after reports of rioters using BBM began to appear:
"We feel for those impacted by this weekend's riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can. As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials."
According to TechCrunch Europe, as much as 37 percent of 16-24 year olds and 37 percent of 12-15 year olds prefer BlackBerry over iPhones "precisely because of the free BlackBerry messenger service."
UPDATE: Apparently in response to RIM's statement that it will cooperate with the police, hackers have targeted Inside BlackBerry, the official BlackBerry blog, PC Advisor reports. This site, which does not seem to be working at this time, read:
Dear Rim;You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment…. if you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, gps locations, customer information & access to peoples BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it, we have access to your database which includes your employees information; e.g – Addresses, Names, Phone Numbers etc. – now if u assist the police, we _WILL_ make this information public and pass it onto rioters…. do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps? Think about it…. and don't think that the police will protect your employees, the police can't protect themselves let alone protect others….. if you make the wrong choice your database will be made public, save yourself the embarrassment and make the right choice. don't be a puppet.
A group calling itself Team Poison appeared to be taking responsibility for the hack. The group posted on Twitter:
The Telegraph reports that accounts that the service will be shut down are false.