Middle East: Technology in revolutionary times

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Society & You - Social Critic
Saturday, 28 April 2012 11:03

The Arab riots have led to open a discussion [in] about the role of social media and mobile technology in these times of change [in]. Whatever your opinion about it, there is no doubt that activists use new technologies en masse, and in this article we look at some of them.

Reporting on your own arrest

There have been many bloggers and activists detained [en] since the beginning of the Arab riots. In Syria, only in recent months have been arrested Rima Dali , Safana Baqleh , Ali Mahmoud Othman , Razan Ghazzawi [in]. In Egypt, Nabil Sanad Maikel , Alaa Abd El Fattah and Amr Gharbeya [in] are just some of the detainees. Not to mention other countries such as Tunisia and Bahrain, as well as cases where bloggers [in] or activists [en] denied entry to Egypt and were held at the Cairo airport.

Although some of the bloggers and activists were later released at the time of arrest many of them had no opportunity to communicate to their lawyers and families the situation where they were. This is where technology can play an important role. Some time ago, Ramy Raoof [in], a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy, spoke of Etmasakt [in], a tool that can provide a technical solution to these situations:

@ RamyRaoof Our friend Mohamed Hussien (@ 7aloli ) developed this application http://bit.ly/Etmasakt to warn people when you have stopped. # Egypt # Android

Etmasakt

Etmasakt helps you to send a short message to multiple recipients (family, lawyer, activist, etc..) And send the place where you have been arrested.

Etmasakt is an Arabic word meaning "I have stopped." Elkabeer Orlando, on his blog, explained the mechanics of this application [on] and how to send an SMS to multiple recipients with your exact position, which is provided by the mobile GPS, with a single click:

التطبيق يمكنك في حالة القبض عليك من ارسال رسالة لعدة أرقام تخبرهم فيها أنه قد تم القبض عليك ويرسل عنوانك بدقة بضغطة زر واحدة
The application lets you send SMS to multiple recipients you have stopped counting and sending your exact position with just one click.

Etmasakt not the only application of this style. " Byt2ebed 3alia "[in] and" I'm Getting Arrested "[to] play the same role, although the latter has a wider use because it takes longer in operation. The fact that there are all these applications for the same purpose is evidence of the need that exists for "services" such as these.

Broadcast live video

There is nothing worse than recording a video for major incident, immediately afterwards, being detained by security forces and see how you destroy your camera or forced to erase the memory card. To avoid this situation, Bambu be [in] stands out as a popular tool among activists. This application, of Swedish origin, can record videos and download instantly from your mobile phone. It's like having a radio station in your pocket.

In Syria, this application was used long before the government blocked. In February, the blog of the application are reported [in] the blockade:

Over recent weeks the number of Bambuser emissions from Syria has increased, some shocking content as bombing victims, destruction and images of some hospitals in poor condition.

Some of the content, such as broken pipeline in Homs, were issued also in various chains of global reach such as CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and SkyNews:

We believe that these contents have pushed the Syrian government to block access to bambuser.com to prevent the broadcast live video from mobile phones in the 3G space Syria.

In Egypt, Tarek Shalaby reported his own arrest by Bambuser [in] and during the parliamentary elections, planned to use this application to monitor the normal development of the feedback [at], especially considering that no allowed this work to develop international observers. During the early days of the Egyptian revolution, the government decided to block Bambuser [in], among other services, before making a more extreme decision just two days later: prevent all access to the Internet [in].

Other tools

Nancy Messieh The Next Web site, has assembled an arsenal of basic applications for mobile targeting activists [en]. The site Movements.org [in] which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, contacting and providing support to basic digital activists and lawyers in the use of new technologies, has identified dozens of applications [in ], from audio editing programs and video or word processing software to open source coding and tunneling.

There are other applications like this [in] that attempts to document the Egyptian revolution through a gallery of photos displayed on the mobile phone, made ​​during the protests, but are less useful.

The disadvantages of automation

Despite the proven usefulness of these applications, automation is not without problems. Last month, activist Hossam El Hamalawy received a terse message from Mostafa Sheshtawy in which he said that he was apprehended.

@ 3arabawy : Guys, I received a message a few minutes ago @ msheshtawy text saying that he stopped. I called him and unresponsive.

People began to worry about Mostafa Sheshtawy until it was discovered that the message in question was sent in error:

@ msheshtawy : Guys, I'm fine. I have not been arrested or anything like that. I had to hand the phone. Sorry.

@ msheshtawy : Someone activated the application while he was asleep. A bad joke. It'll take anyone who has done this. I'm sorry.

Finally, and as activists and citizens, dictators also use new technologies. Authoritarian regimes in Arab countries have received support from American companies [in] designing tools that can be used for the practice of censorship and espionage against pro-democracy protests. At the end of the day, technology is a double-edged sword, and everyone uses it according to their interests.

Written by Tarek Amr · Translated by James Azara · View original post [en] · Comments (0)
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