RIM agrees to turn off BBM when trouble strikes

UPDATE

RIM has clarified Stephen Bates' statements to the Select Committee concerning any shutting-down of its Blackberry Messenger service. An update is here.

The firm points out that under Telecommunications Act 2003 it is the mobile operators who would be asked to shut down the networks and in that respect RIM would join in the general outage. It wouldn't unilaterally turn off the Messenger Service unless legally required to do so.

Canadian BlackBerry maker RIM has indicated that it would be wiling to close down its Messenger service in the UK, when asked by authorities worried about kids on the street using the thing without snoops being able to find out what they're saying.

RIM's Stephen Bates today told politicians investigating the riots that swept Britain during August that the company would comply with requests to turn of the service when poor people took to the streets in search of a flat-screen TV they can't afford.

"We comply with the law" Bates said, and if instructed to disable the BBM service, "we would then comply, we would then work with those mobile operators to help them meet the obligations as defined by that act."

Police complained in August that rioters were communicating by Blackberry Messenger to arrange to meet up and muck about. We're not aware that there's a law against people communicating with one another, however.

A frazzled Prime Minister David Cameron initially suggested the Internet be cut off when folk were getting a bit lairy. In the end, he sent home secretary, Theresa May,to meet with RIM, Twitter and Facebook, to see if she could persuade them to stop people being naughty.

Bates reckoned messaging services and social media are a positive force for good a said his company didn't think shutting networks down was "a good way forward".

"On the whole the vast majority abide by the law and use social media systems as a force for good," he told MPs.

"We saw many instances while the riots were happening where social media were used to check people were safe and they had got to places were they wanted to."

Alexander Macgillivray, a Twitter lawyer, agreed, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that it would be an "absolutely horrible idea" to shut down his and other social networks when trouble's brewing.