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UK Official Calls for BlackBerry Ban to Help Control London Rioting

Posted Aug 9, 2011 11:04 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As authorities in London struggle to regain control after three days of rioting and looting following a controversial police shooting, at least one official is calling for a temporary shutdown of BlackBerry service, to prevent participants from instant-messaging their plans to each other and circumventing police.

However, the messages, which are being forwarded to authorities by some who receive them, are also useful to police and likely will eventually help authorities track down the culprits, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook and Twitter posts also have played a role in the situation, for good and for bad. On the positive side, some are using social media to coordinate clean-up efforts in London, notes the Technology Live page of USA Today.

And police are using social media to reassure residents, reports the Gazette.

However, some teens may not realize how seriously authorities are taking words that could incite violence, Chief Superintendent Karen Manners of the Hampshire police department tells the newspaper.

“If you are publishing messages encouraging violence, you need to know you can expect a visit from the police," she says. “We would ask parents also to help us keep communities safe by making sure you know what your children are doing online. Please be vigilant and help us to put an end to this."

A "Catch a Looter" page on the Tumbler blogging platform features photos of apparent crimes in progress, seemingly in the hope that this will help identify the culprits, points out PC World.

The problem is, Internet messages tend to be more effective in organizing the flash mobs that can quickly wreak havoc than in helping authorities contain them.

"In an age of social media in which disgruntled youth are frequently more skilled with smart phones than are the adults who police them, London authorities believe handheld technologies may have helped those trying to instigate violence to spread their message," writes Time.

Although not as extensive as the rioting in London, which reportedly is the worst in decades, similar groups have done damage in various cities throughout the United States, notes the Associated Press.

Deluged with an ocean of material that needs to be sorted through and responded to quickly in order to control such violence, "We need to be able to get better on the intelligence side to pick up on communications that are going on," said Capt. Jon Peters of the Los Angeles police.

At last report, some 16,000 police had flooded London in an effort to control what is going on in the UK's capital, according to the Telegraph.

The BBC News and the Daily Mail are among the publications that also have stories.

Another BBC article rounds up additional coverage.

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