MP calls for BlackBerry Messenger suspension to calm UK riots

Tue Aug 9, 2011 12:23pm EDT
 

By Georgina Prodhan and Alastair Sharp

LONDON/TORONTO (Reuters) - A lawmaker called on Tuesday for BlackBerry's instant messaging service to be suspended after rioters used it to mobilize in London and other British cities.

David Lammy, Member of Parliament for Tottenham, where London's worst riots for decades began on Saturday, appealed on Twitter and on BBC radio for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to suspend BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

"This is one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force," he tweeted. "BBM is different as it is encrypted and police can't access it."

The riots, in which shops are being looted and cars and buildings set ablaze, spread to Britain's second-largest city Birmingham and other centers.

Politicians and police are blaming the violence on criminals and hooligans but some commentators and local residents say its roots lie in anger over economic hardship in a city where the prospects for many youths are dim.

Many of the rioters favor BlackBerry Messenger over Twitter and other social media because its messages are encrypted and private, but the service is widely used and messages can easily be sent to groups.

Research In Motion said in a statement on Monday: "As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials."

The company declined to say whether it was handing over chat logs or user details to police.   Continued...