Why you had #blackberryblackout

As many as 70 million Blackberry Mamas and Papas out there spent their uncomfortable blackberryless three days without any BBMs [Blackberry Messenger], Nokia Papas and Mamas were enjoying ourselves, tweeting and Facebooking such that I almost heard my right-hand thumb saying “ouch”.

Not having you lot Blackberriers on the social network Facebook and Twitter somewhat felt like something was missing. Serious. It felt like one was in a classroom whereby you could tell if the naughtiest pupil in that class was absent or that s/he was sick and could therefore not come to school. Even better, if felt so quiet without you lot just like it did on the political front when ANCYL President Julius Malema was admitted in hospital for a flue-like illness. Malema’s admission, I suspect, must have had something to do with Desmond Tutu’s anger, saying he would pray for the downfall of the ruling government – a mother-body ruling ANC to Malema’s league. But as much I did not have you around for these few days [and maybe a few days to come] because of your skarsness – I can’t say with certainty, however, that I miss you lot that much. Or maybe I do. But just a little.

Reports last week that your Blackberries gave you guys problems were not good news at all. This was worsened by the number of users that had been affected around the world. On Wednesday, 12 October 2011, The Daily Beast web site reported that within its third day of disruptions Blackberry had even spread to other parts of the world, includingNorth America.

Wall Street Journal last week Wednesday quoted a RIM’s nameless spokeswoman saying the disruption was “caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure” and that its backup “did not function as previously tested”. The disruption affected Blackberry users in Europe, the Middle East,Americaand African. There were also reports, according the web site, thatJapan, theUSandCanadahad also been affected by these disruptions. This has since resulted in many of you failing not only to access the internet, email but that you also could not access the famous BBMs. That RIM executives said little did not help the matter. Instead it left many blackberry users upset and angry, with some even threatening to revert to their Nokias, with some having already reverted to using their desktop computers and or laptops.

According to WSJ the damage regarding Blackberry’s “reliability spread” resulted in other cellphone carriers like United Arab’s Emirates Telecommunications Corp and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co. saying they would compensate their Blackberry customers for service interruption across Europe and other parts of the world including theMiddle East. Other cellphone network operators had indicated to WSJ that they had “began offering customers compensation, raising the possibility that those carriers could look to RIM to repay the, eventually”.

South African cellphone operator had during these three days apologised to its customers for the disruptions. Business Day newspaper reported that Virgin Mobile said it would reimburse its Blackberry users with a R50.00 airtime. It was, however, not clear whether other operators like Cell C, MTN and Vodaphone would do the same. The newspaper reported National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said that through the new National Consumer Act consumers (Blackberry users) could seek recourse from their cellphone providers.

Mohlala reportedly said section 55, 56 and 61 of the Act gave consumers protection on the quality of goods, and liability for damage cause by goods. She said everyone who was involved in the value chain could be held liable in terms of section 61 of the act. Consumers who had bought their Blackberry handsets after April 2011 could return them and demand another brand with an equal value, or a refund, because the service promised was not delivered. At the time only one complained had been received by Mohlala’s office, according to Business Day.

WSJ said while many European customers had been frustrated by the disruption, they, however, “hadn’t yet decided to look for a new smartphone provider [like IPhone]”. It said while Appel’s iPhone and smartphones had “made big inroads in consumers and corporate markets, Blackberry still [enjoyed] a loyal following among executives, who prize its security and easy-to-type keyboard”.

Link to Occupy Wall Street?

At the time of writing there were, at least, three assumptions on why you lot Blackberriers had experienced #blackberryblackout. The first assumption was by @CNBC_TechAtWork which said on Twitter on Tuesday that the disruption may have had something to do with the new launch of iPhone. “Blackberry outage days before the launch of the new iPhone? Mmm… I smell a well paced saboteur”. The second is by @wikileaks, also asking on Tuesday: “Has Blackberry been disabled by intelligence to stopOccupy Wall Stspreading to EU, MENA. Recall statement postLondonriots about BBM”. The third assumption, although related to the second one, is however mine which you lot may think is ridiculous, if not impossible.

Having thought twice about this before I put it down as I now have, I could not help but wonder whether Blackberry disruptions is related to the United States’ Occupy Wall Street campaign. Put differently, there is likelihood and possibility that US intelligence authorities have/had something to do with the #blackberryblackout. This is so that its users would be hindered from using the likes of text messaging services [BBM] and the internet to access social networks like Facebook and Twitter because they are suspected to being used to galvanized and communicate with outsiders and strengthen Occupy Wall Street campaign.

Remember what happened in Libyaand many other countries what these social networks were suspect of? Well, if you do not remember…

Many of people were suspected of using the social networks to communicate and strengthen their gatherings. Even Twitter has been threatened several times with law suites to reveal/hand over direct messages of people suspected to being behind the riots.

International Business Times (IBT) web site had in February 2011 reported that there were fears that “dissidents in Bahrain, Libya and Iran are not only following the footsteps of their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia by taking a pro-democracy stand, but [that they] have also chosen the same tools to mobilise the revolution – (the) internet”. Besides aiding protests, IBT noted that the “internet and social media have also emerged as information outlet for the worldwide media and people across the globe”.

Because of this and as noted by CNN on 22 February 2011, the government of Libya then shut down the internet – a similar decision taken by Egypt at the time when it experienced protests. This censorship was seen as government’s attempt shut down access to the internet, including access to Facebook and Twitter, because they were apparently “heavily used by some of the people who helped organise the anti-Mubarak protests which toppled his government after 18 days on the streets”.

My suspicion is further confirmed – sort of – by Media Badger website when it reported on March 10, 2011 the effect of social technology in societal change. Media Badge research had found that social technologies (text messaging) were the “most often used to coordinate social change activities” which had also “proven to be the most popular and what we classify as a Tactical Tool” because text messages were “used quickly and in rapid changing context”.

According to Media Badge Facebook and Orkut, classified as SocNets, were used to “establish groups and set an event, but [were] poorly adapted being mobile”. Twitter, on the other hand classified as Microblogs, was found to be more “strategic”. As Virtual Navigator blogger noted on 20 February 2011, social media is a “double-edged sword” that is “content to shut down the internet, as was done inEgypt, but (that) dictatorial regimes have no problem using it for their own purposes as well.”

“It’s just as easy for government agents to spy on the discussions and messages going out and pinpoint who is in charge of opposition movements and stifle them right to the sources”, noted Virtual Navigator web blogger. As a result I have a strong belief that indeed Blackberry disruptions may have been as a result of the US intelligence interference so that its text messaging service which is often used to “coordinate social change activities” – tempered with deliberately because it is seen as a “challenge to national security” – is not used by organisers of Occupy Wall Street.


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