To assist British police with the worst looting spree in decades now in its fourth night, Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company responsible for the BlackBerry, has offered to release encrypted communications of its British users to help identify the violent rioters.
RIM’s official blog was hacked by a group identifying themselves as Team Poison who posted a message warning the Canadian firm against assisting police in identifying rioters and looters thought to have used BlackBerry instant messaging to coordinate attacks.
"If you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, GPS locations, customer information and access to peoples' BlackBerry Messengers, you will regret it," said the post.
The message went on to detail a hacked database containing the names, addresses and phone numbers of RIM employees would be made public and "passed onto rioters" if RIM did not comply. "Do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps?" it warned. "Think about it."
More than 560 people have been arrested in London in three days, while 111 police officers were injured, said Scotland Yard. “The rampage by hundreds of hooded youths was ‘unprecedented’ and police resources were stretched ‘to an extent I have never seen before,’” said Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh.
The riots occurring in Tottenham, a district of north London where race riots also erupted in 1985, have a new weapon to spur continual rioting that was not available to mob mentalities 20 years ago. The fuel is instant communication via social media and related technologies.
The Morton Report’s own Andrew Morton believes the disturbance has spread so quickly due to social networks like Twitter and BlackBerry BBM. While social media served the Arab Spring effectively in recent months, it has had an adverse effect in this instance as “police proved so ineffective against a highly-mobile mob intent on doing as much damage as they could to their communities.”
Read Andrew Morton’s firsthand account from the UK here.