How BlackBerry helped spread London riots

There were calls on Tuesday to shut down the BlackBerry Messenger service which is thought to have helped mobilise looters in the riots in London, a media report said.

Mike Butcher, a technology journalist and adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson, said it was "unbelievable" that the BBM service had not been disabled.

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Messages on the service, along with posts on Twitter, helped spread the locations of riots like wildfire and brought hordes of teenagers together to attack neighbourhoods throughout the weekend, Daily Mail reported.

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Butcher described the BBM service as "text messaging with steroids". Blackberry, however, denied reports it had planned to disable the service.

"Mobile phones have become weaponised in their capability of spreading information about where to target next.

"There is evidence that BBM is an encrypted, very secure, safe, fast, cheap, easy way for disaffected urban youths to spread messages for their next target," the Mail quoted him as saying in the BBC Today programme Tuesday.

"It's like text messaging with steroids – you can send messages to hundreds of people and once it's gone from your phone it cannot be traced back to you," he said.

BlackBerry UK said it will help the authorities with their investigation.

Young looters were accused of an opportunistic 'Supermarket Sweep' motivated by nothing other than greed. Dozens were filmed as they disappeared into the night with their arms laden with plasma TVs, laptops and sports clothes.

Many of those involved were rallied by calls spread through mobile phone messages and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Claims that rampant lawlessness was motivated by the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of police was quickly exposed as a lie, Mail said. Some of those involved in attacks on stores were barely old enough to be arrested.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said those caught using Twitter, BlackBerry messaging and other sites to stir up violence could be prosecuted.

The BlackBerry smartphones offers a text message-style service which is instant, free and private where users can exchange updates with individuals or large groups.

Several countries, including the UAE and India, have complained that BlackBerry messages are too secure and may be used by terrorists.

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