Shares of beleaguered Blackberry maker Research In Motion dropped more than 5 percent today after the company tried to make up for a four-day BlackBerry outage by offering customers $100 worth of free apps and technical support. That outage was a quiet killer. But what should they have offered their loyal users? Other than an iPhone or an Android phone, I mean. Your suggestions welcomed in the comments.
Police in Essex, England have charged a 20-year-old man with "encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence" (under the 2007 Serious Crime Act) because he used Blackberry Messenger to encourage people to attend a public water fight. It's not clear whether the police were working from an informant or whether they have developed the capability to wiretap Blackberry's notionally encrypted messaging network (I'm not clear whether Blackberry has the capacity to decrypt and read messages, or whether the encryption is end-to-end.)
In 2008 there was a spate of mass water fights in British towns and cities that were organised through social networks. Most remained peaceful.This month a water fight attended by thousands of young Iranians attracted the attention of Tehran's morality police and led to a series of arrests.
Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a national censorship regime to block or filter the Internet to prevent social unrest (this despite the failure of the Chinese government to effectively manage the trick with vastly more resources and expertise and vastly fewer legal constraints). One week before this proposal, Cameron's government rejected the Digital Economy Act's provisions for censoring the Internet to prevent copyright infringement, having concluded that such censorship regimes were easy to evade and would not be effective.
The official blog of Research in Motion was hacked today by Team Poison. The Canadian company had earlier promised to help British authorities track down BlackBerry users suspected of involvement in the local unrest. From AFP:
"If you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, GPS locations, customer information and access to peoples' BlackBerry Messengers, you will regret it," said the post.
The message went on to say a hacked database containing the names, addresses and phone numbers of RIM employees would be made public and "passed onto rioters" if RIM did not comply.
"Do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps?" it warned. "Think about it."
RIM officials in Britain offered Monday to assist authorities "in any way possible."
I doubt this will be much help to anyone worried by RIM's presumed eagerness to hand over its secure messaging system for state inspection.
CNN reports that there are further demands to completely shut down the network.
Some London public officials have asked RIM to shut down BlackBerry Messenger temporarily to stem further unrest. A representative for RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What next? Facebook and Twitter?