Smartphones are changing the way we do activism. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given voice to the masses and a means to publicise messages quickly. But not all online tools are equal. Some social media sites are not safe for those living in fear for their lives or at risk of torture. Others are not available if you live in a country that restricts access to the internet and suppresses freedom of expression.
Here’s a list of some of the best tools to help you mobilise, organise and stay safe online.
A little bit of information can be a powerful thing
CrowdVoice is an open source tool that ‘tracks and contextualises information on social justice movements worldwide’. Get lost for hours in the amazing infographics, video content and insightful articles. If you see a new protest taking shape, book yourself a front row seat by hopping onto one of the live streaming apps mentioned below.
The revolution will not be televised, but it will be recorded
The ability to record and instantly upload footage to the internet has been instrumental in drawing global attention to police brutality and injustice around the world. From the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong to the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, the humble smartphone is being used to bear witness and speak truth to power.
Burn after reading, best apps to protect your privacy and personal data
Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great for gaining global attention to a cause but not suitable for those who are concerned about governments spying on us, or corporations stealing your personal data. Encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, Wickr and Signal allow users to communicate without fear of eavesdropping. Telegram also includes a ‘Secret Chats’ service where you can send self-destructing messages, photos and videos.
Search the internet in stealth mode
If you’re concerned your activist search history could be made public when you stand for Prime Minister one day, consider using a search engine that does not store your personal data or cookies such as DuckDuckGo. Alternatively, use a proxy or VPN service such as Orbot which uses TOR to encrypt your internet use and hides it by bouncing it through a series of computers around the world (this could also be useful if you’re in a country where the Government limits access to the internet, such as China, Iran or Vietnam).
Alert the ones you love when you are in danger
Amnesty International’s Panic Button app turns your smartphone into a secret alarm and helps those at risk of being kidnapped, arrested or disappeared, tell people they’re in trouble. By rapidly pressing the power button the app will send an SMS and your GPS location to a preselected list of contacts. I’m Getting Arrested is similar and enables anyone, with one click, to broadcast a custom message to SMS numbers in the event they are arrested. It was inspired by a real Occupy Wall Street incident.
Be the change you want to see in the world
If you’re feeling inspired after reading this post, turn your anger into activism by signing an online petition today. Personally I love change.org and New Zealand’s ActionStation, which allows users to create and share petitions based on the idea ‘that many people together performing small actions can lead to big change’.