Social Media, BBM Play Central Role in London Riots

By Sajid Farooq
|  Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011  |  Updated 6:01 AM PDT
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Social Media, BBM's Roll in Riots

AP

British police officers stand guard as a car set on fire by rioters, burns in Hackney, east London, Monday Aug. 8, 2011. A chaotic wave of violence and looting raged across London and spread to three other major British cities on Tuesday, as authorities struggled to contain the country's worst unrest since race riots set the capital ablaze in the 1980s.

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With more than 16,000 police officers now patrolling the riot-filled streets of London, the group is getting a little help from some of technology's hottest companies.

Both BlackBerry's Messenger service and Twitter's micro-blogging platform were instrumental in organizing and tracking rioters, some of whom have looted stores and caused damage to the streets for three nights reportedly in protest of the police killing of a young man.

While RIM's Messenger service has been the weapon of choice for organizing the riots, Twitter and Facebook appear to be aiding the clean up of the city.

Volunteer clean up crews have begun organizing efforts to restore their neighborhoods by creating a Twitter stream, @Riotcleanup, and a Facebook page.

The coordinated efforts are drawing hundreds of followers and likes.

On the other side, BlackBerry's maker, Research in Motion, has said it is cooperating fully with British authorities to help target organizers of the unrest.

But the Canadian company has paid the price for its cooperation. A group of hackers, decrying the invasion of privacy caused by RIM sharing BlackBerry Messages with authorities, hacked the company's blog and changed a statement announcing RIM's cooperation with authorities into its own manifesto.

The group, TeaMp0isoN, wrote on RIM's blog, which has since been removed. But not before it was captured by the web:

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

The group went on to threaten to make the company's database, which includes employee names and addresses, public.

British Prime Minister David Cameron returned to the country from holiday in Italy and vowed to restore order and to put an end to the "sickening scenes."

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