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London riots flamed by social networking

UK readers will assuredly have been watching the TV coverage of riots in London and other parts of the UK over the last couple of days. Disturbingly, we can see that much of the organisation of the riots is being spearheaded over social networking platforms.

The riots in London have caused an immensely high level of damage to both retail stores and community vehicles and buildings.

I was watching the news late last night and noticed that many of the young rioters were using smartphones to not only capture footage, but to communicate with others. Even technologically unaware news reporters were commenting on the number of phones in action during the riots.

This has been noticed by many of the smartphone providers and leading BlackBerry maker Research In Motion have even went as far as issuing a statement on their Twitter Feed.

They issued the following statement “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

We would assume that BlackBerry are monitoring communications on some level then reporting it back to the police. So far details have not yet been made public however and some remain skeptical due to encryption methods.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK have said “BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) appears to be the favoured method of planning the unrest that has swept across north London since Saturday evening. Unlike text messaging or Twitter, BBM is a free, private social network where almost all messages are encrypted when they leave the sender’s phone – meaning that many messages are untraceable by the authorities.

RIM can be legally ordered to hand over details to police of users suspected of unlawful activity. However, the Canadian company would be likely to resist those demands and the content of users’ inflammatory messages would be encrypted. The manufacturer has previously insisted that even it cannot unscramble users’ messages when sent on the devices.

Although Twitter and Facebook have played a key role in past unrest in the capital, the Tottenham riots are thought to be the first in the UK so heavily orchestrated using BlackBerry Messenger.”

In the news report I was watching, it did appear to show many BlackBerry phones in operation, although I did see some iPhones and Nokia handsets, with youngsters clearly sending messages to friends and people they knew.

The Guardian added that one BBM broadcast was asking protestors to loot in Stratford:

“If you’re down for making money, we’re about to go hard in east london tonight, yes tonight!! I don’t care what ends you’re from, we’re personally inviting you to come and get it in. Police have taken the piss for too long and to be honest I don’t know why its taken so long for us make this happen. We need a minimum of 200 hungry people. We’re not broke, but who says no to free stuff. Doesn’t matter if the police arrive cos we’ll just chase dem out because as you’ve seen on the news, they are NOT ON DIS TING. Everyone meet at 7 at stratford park and let’s get rich.”

Twitter was also at the center of debate with many Tweets online fueling the violence. The Metropolitan Police have said that they will investigate the messages and hopefully track the people behind them.

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