Blackberry riots

Under scrutiny: the role that social media has played in the recent riots that have swept the UK.

Turns out Blackberry Messenger (BBM), a messaging app between blackberry users, was at the heart of how the word spread so far, so fast amongst Britain’s youth. BBM is free, secure, and has a feature where a user can ‘broadcast’ a message to all their contacts at once.

37% of British teens have a Blackberry, so it’s easy to see how messages like ‘things are kicking off at xxxx’ would spread virally, and whilst the mayhem was at its most heated, there was talk about suspending BBM services.

BBM - a powerful tool for information spreading

BBM - a powerful tool for information spreading. image courtesy of TechCrunch

The question is, would suspending the messaging service have helped to prevent rioting and looters? Or would those intent on mayhem just switch to another messaging app to rally forces? What about those broadcasting the message to friends and family in order to stay safe and actually avoid the violence?

Twitter is another technology that was used during the rioting- but more notably for public good, as the account @riotcleanup helped pull people together to clean up their communities after the damage, organise donation drives and coordinate volunteers to help out at other local events.  

Can the spread of information ever really be monitored or moderated? Should the goverment (or other bodies) have the power to pull a service if they feel the public is under threat? Many technologies can be used for good or to wreak havoc. Is any technology inherently bad?

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