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Blackberry Messenger, not Twitter or Facebook, Used to Organize London Riots

by Larry Magid

Depending on one’s perspective, Twitter and Facebook have been credited and blamed for helping to organize uprisings in Egypt, Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.  But. when it comes to the riots in London, even though there is plenty of chatter on these two services, it appears as if Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is the organizational weapon of choice for coordinating  and recruiting people in the ongoing riots in Tottenham and other parts of London.

While discussing the role of Twitter and Facebook in helping spread information about the original cause of the riots (the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan) the Guardian reported that “the most powerful and up-t0-the-minute rallying appears to have taken place on a more covert social network: Blackberry Messenger.”

Unlike Twitter where most messages are posted publicly, BBM makes it easy to send private messages that are protected by a PIN code. Messages can be one to one and one to many and can be forwarded.  Messages are encrypted and they can be much more difficult for authorities to trace than Tweets or Facebook updates.

Research in Motion, which makes Blacberry devices and operates the BBM service has said that it will cooperate with British police, according to ZDNet UK.  A spokesperson for the company said “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London,” and “we have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

A free BBM app is available directly from Research in Motion and there are other “BBM connected apps” from third parties, including some that use GPS and other technologies to report your location to friends.

Video: Larry discusses BBM use in London on Al Jazeera English

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