Today has been an extraordinary day. As I write this, more and more areas of London are becoming engulfed in flames, violence and disorder.
It’s been a pretty strange day for me too. The blog post that I published in the early hours of Sunday morning caught the attention of the media resulting in the post being republished, quoted and adapted across online international news outlets throughout the day. I’ve also had various journalists trying to contact me for interviews, most of which I missed (sorry guys, I was at work).
The reason for this interest was because I appear to have been one of the first people to notice that young people were using BlackBerry’s BBM network to communicate with each other prior to, and during the riots that began in Tottenham on Saturday night.
I have to admit that while I thought it was an interesting angle to take, I didn’t expect it to become quite as big a news story as it has. My insight came from the urban young people I’m connected to, for whom BBM is the social network of choice. I outlined the reasons why in my original post, so I won’t rehash them here. What the young people I’ve spoken to today find amazing is that this is a revelation to people.
“BBM is standard issue.” One said to me. “Of course. It’s all about BBM. This is our network!” I was told. The fact that journalists have just woken up to this fact is interesting in itself, but it has led to some sections of the media coming to bizarre conclusions.
To be clear, BlackBerry did not cause the riots and is not responsible for them. BBM is simply the preferred communications network for large numbers of young people, and as I said earlier when young people are angry and organised enough – the results can be explosive.
BBM’s private nature is I’m sure of concern to the police. Earlier BlackBerry issued a statement via Twitter to let people know that they are cooperating with the authorities, presumably in response to media interest in this story.
But calls for the use of BBM to be curbed are, in my opinion misguided. As others have pointed out, social networks don’t cause riots – people do.
Photo credits: Ed Yourdon via Flickr and TechCrunch