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Social Media, BlackBerry Under Fire in U.K. Riots; BlackBerry Site Hacked

Aug 9, 2011  •  Post A Comment

As rioting continues to rage in London and other British cities, authorities are focusing on the role of social media and BlackBerry Messenger in helping to organize the rioters, ABC News reports.

Police have threatened to bring charges against social media users who incite violence, the story says.

“Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanaugh confirmed to U.K. media that officers were looking at Twitter as they investigated the riots, which began after the police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in the Tottenham section of North London on Thursday,” the story reports. “But some observers have noted that the social media that has really helped ‘organize’ the looting is not Twitter or even Facebook, so central to uprisings throughout the Arab world earlier this year. Many of the teenagers running through London’s streets are communicating by BlackBerry Messenger.”

Duggan reportedly sent a message to his girlfriend by BlackBerry Messenger just before he was killed, saying “The Feds are following me.” From that point on, said TechCrunch Europe editor Mike Butcher, “while Twitter has largely been the venue of spectators to violence and is a handy public venue for journalists to observe, it would appear the non-public BlackBerry BBM messaging network has been the method of choice for organising it."

BlackBerry’s attempt to assist authorities in the case resulted in the hacking of the Inside BlackBerry blog, ABC News reported separately.

BlackBerry’s Canadian parent company Research in Motion, or RIM, initially posted the following: "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."

That notice prompted the hacking of the site, where this response appeared today:

"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. …"

The story adds: “Credit for the hacking was claimed by a group that calls itself TeaMp0isoN. It has been linked to other shadowy groups, such as Lulz Security and Anonymous, which have taken credit for breaking into the websites of police departments, the U.S. Senate, the CIA, Sony’s PlayStation network and Citibank.”

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