Blackberry, Twitter Messages Probed as London Rioting Spreads

Tuesday, 09 Aug 2011 08:14 AM

 

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BlackBerry smartphone maker Research in Motion Ltd. said it is assisting London police investigating claims the company’s messaging service was being used by rioters to plan disturbances.

After a third night of violence and looting, police will also review the role of messages sent using other popular networking systems, including Twitter Inc.

“It is clear that technology is being used in demonstrations to direct people and undermine the police,” a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said.

Rioters clashed with police last night in Hackney, Newham, Lewisham and Bethnal Green, while a sofa factory was burned in Croydon. Dozens of officers have been injured and at least 450 people arrested in the riots, which began Saturday following a protest over the shooting and killing of Tottenham resident Mark Duggan by police. Officers also dispersed youths at Oxford Circus in London’s main West End shopping district.

Social media have been used to coordinate demonstrations against Middle Eastern regimes, campaign for Saudi women’s right to drive and for lower prices for cottage cheese in Israel. In the U.K., the use by troublemakers of Twitter, and mobile phones, may help authorities identify them and restore peace to London, Steve O’Connell, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said by telephone yesterday.

“I would expect the Met to use every technology available to get it sorted out, make the arrests, and bring peace back to our neighborhoods,” O’Connell said yesterday.

Court Order

Research in Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, posted a message on its official U.K. Twitter account last night saying, “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

Twitter spokeswoman Rachel Bremer declined to comment. The San Francisco-based company’s policy is to require a subpoena or court order before disclosing private information to law enforcement about its users, according to guidelines on its website.

“The bad guys were using these sites to target areas quickly. Small bands of ne’er-do-wells were descending on high- quality stores to loot,” O’Connell said.

U.K. prime minister David Cameron, home secretary Theresa May and London mayor Boris Johnson cut short vacations to hold emergency meetings with police.

Officers, Arrests

Cameron told reporters today that 16,000 police officers will be deployed, more arrests made and court processes sped up to deal with the cases. Parliament is being recalled for an Aug. 11 session on the riots.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said yesterday the violence had “absolutely nothing” to do with the death of Duggan.

“It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence -- nothing more, nothing less -- and it is completely unacceptable, and the people who have suffered are those who have lost their businesses, shopkeepers who have lost their shops,” he said.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the shooting of Duggan.

“The IPCC awaits further forensic analysis to enable us to have a fuller and more comprehensive account of what shots were discharged, the sequence of events and what exactly happened,” the commission said in a statement yesterday. It said in an earlier statement during the day that “speculation that Mark Duggan was ‘assassinated’ in an execution style involving a number of shots to the head are categorically untrue.”

Duggan died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, an IPCC investigator told a coroner’s inquest that began today, according to the Press Association news service. The investigation into his death could take four to six months, according to the report.

--With assistance from Linda Sandler in New York. Editor: Christopher Scinta, Peter Chapman

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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