A UK teenager has been charged with inciting riots after she used BlackBerry’s Messenger (BBM) service to encourage friends to copy the scenes of violence that had sprung up elsewhere across the country.
We reported earlier this week that RIM, the makers of BlackBerry smartphones, was engaging with police over the role its BBM service was playing in the London riots.
And as the Telegraph reports today, an 18-year old woman from Clacton, in Essex, stands accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting in the committal of an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, after sending a message to friends on August 8th using the messenger service.
The teenager has been bailed, and will appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court in early September.
This is one of the first cases in which the authorities have specifically referred to BBM as a tool in the riots, though a man from Southampton was arrested on similar charges yesterday.
In an Ofcom Communication Market Report released in early August, it found that BlackBerry handsets have 24% share of the smartphone market, but it was particularly popular with younger adults and teenagers, accounting for 37% in that demographic. Female teenagers, in particular, appear to have a preference for BlackBerry handsets, with a 44% market share. The report said:
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that this preference is driven by the BlackBerry messenger service (BBM) which offers a free alternative to texting (SMS).”
BBM offers an encrypted, closed network for people to communicate, which is why it’s thought it proved to be a popular tool for rioters and looters to organize meetups over the past week.