As the protests in the Big Apple and allegations of social media censorship intensified, so did the demonstrators' need to secure a “private” and “anonymous” communication channel.
The purpose would be, on the one hand, to prevent account blocking/deletion and, on the other, to ensure that anyone can freely speak his or her mind without having to worry about being charged for rioting. The Arab spring, British summer and their lesson already proved that “traditional” short messaging systems and other social media applications failed in ensuring such an environment. Many of those days' dissidents and instigators were tracked and indicted based on the messages they sent.
But it didn't take too long for the (appropriate) communication tool to appear. A tiny app that allows an incognito user to send messages with a variable lifespan to recipients placed within a specific radius around the sender (from 160 feet to worldwide).
Solving the anonymity issue is, from the protesters' point of view, extremely benign, as they now can freely communicate and warn each other about the dangers or actions in progress. However, as each coin has two sides, so does namelessness.
Lacking identity (and identification) should raise questions about the credibility of the messages. As no one assumes the voice articulating the warnings and incitements, anyone – from undercover law enforcement representatives to extremists and pranksters – could assume the discourse (with the subsequent consequences, hopefully less dramatic).
Another consequence is that the tool providing the long-awaited obscurity could be hijacked for malicious purposes. Unlike other apps, in this case the ability of tracking down in a crowd of protesters a cybercriminal posting links towards Web pages allegedly related to the current events (but actually spreading malware) tends to zero.
Should protesters think twice before taking for granted what they read (or could be asked to click) on their smartphone's app?
Safe surfing everybody!
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