London Riots Were Powered by BlackberryS

Twitter, the growing microblog juggernaut, basks in the glory of its celebrity users and the so-called "Twitter revolutions." Decaying BlackBerry, meanwhile, is experiencing the unpleasant flipside of product association.

This weekend's violence in a London ghetto is referred to simply as the "Tottenham riots." But the British press is eagerly exploring how technology was used to coordinate and spread word of the police clashes, looting and arson. And it turns out, apparently, that the core communication system at work was the BBM messaging system that links BlackBerry phones. London "street culture" blogger and technologist Jonathan Akwue wrote:

BBM messages... have fuelled the anger of the youths that have taken to the streets. BBM was also the channel used to spread the word that the riot had started, and... appears to be the means by which communications continue to be shared.... Although these messages are spreading virally, by being shared via BBM they have been less visible to the outside world, making them harder to track.

It turns out that Blackberry, originally associated with corporate C-suiters and pricier attorneys, is now a bargain. With certain models cheaper than iPhone and even Android handsets, it was within easier reach of disgruntled rioters. "Remember," said TechCrunch UK, "Androids and iPhones don't run the free BBM network, and no other group messaging app has yet taken hold in the UK. As a result BlackBerrys have become the weapon of choice of Britain's disaffected youth."

Of course, the branding concerns of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion pale in comparison to the real consequences of the violence in London. So don't expect the Canadian company to admit it cares much about the marketing implications of what happened. But after being utterly clobbered by the iPhone, RIM doesn't need this sort of association compounding its image problem.

[Photo via Getty]