The Russian government has cracked down on foreign social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, banning them from extremist activists. For local protesters, activists and civilians, these actions have resulted in a significant barrier to communication with the outside world. Additionally, they also raised the question of how easy these apps are to target for state authorities. Since citizens do not have access to these platforms, they have no choice but to flee to the best platforms that are still active.
However, Russian activists are not the only ones who have opted for alternatives. Consider, for example, Telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging service that has quickly become a place to share war footage and other content that would otherwise have been blocked on platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Not to mention that even these platforms, which are now accessible to citizens, have no guarantee of being immune to bans from the authorities. In this case, users will have no choice but to turn to locally developed “in-house” alternatives.
The debate between freedom and control is not new, with current global conditions being just one example of when these dichotomies exist face to face. Previously, this debate was introduced with the provision of digital freedom through the internet, swept up by big tech using metadata for money-making opportunities and concerns about governments using the same data to keep tabs on their citizens. The result is that privacy and free speech will never be guaranteed under today’s Web 2 foundation.
The battle between freedom and control is still ongoing as the world comes up with new methods to empower individual sovereignty. Because of this, movements will always have an easily targeted weakness and protest activities will always face obstacles as long as they rely on centralized social media platforms, which can be shut down at any time. Naturally, this is reminiscent of, for example, the situation that arose when the Nigerian government banned Twitter to protect its people from anti-government political activity. Indeed, this action has only stifled activities and restricted the ability of citizens to communicate and organize freely.
Take a community-driven approach
As a result, social movements are now moving away from a single leader, taking power from one person and dispersing power among the people who make up the movement. Evidence of this decentralized approach can now be seen in movements like Extinction Rebellion and Occupy Wall Street.
This concept of giving power back to the people is far from new. With the introduction of the internet and mobile devices, the power is put directly in the hands of the user. After all, anyone can record, create or broadcast information to millions of people in seconds. Power is effectively diffused around the world, allowing even the citizen with the smallest voice to have the greatest impact. Therefore, rather than being “leaderless,” moves toward a decentralized structure empower new leaders in a way that empowers everyone to rally people and act around their community’s most pressing concerns.
While the Internet has proven to be the greatest disseminator of information, its technological design is not perfect. Therefore, while technology will always be central to how activists operate and engage with the rest of the world, proper protocols and infrastructure are needed to ensure efforts are not stifled.
Therefore, decentralized communication platforms have proven to be the most suitable option for activists and protesters to come together without fear of system shutdowns. Unfortunately, to make these offers available, private messengers need a powerful decentralized ecosystem as their base.
Make privacy possible
In the decentralization of communication, blockchain technology is considered to play a vital role as a starting point for messaging applications. These solutions go far beyond encryption to add another level of privacy. Properly installed, this technology can become the shield to protect the innocent and encourage efforts that support the greater good.
An example of this is Oxen, a platform designed to build a private future for the internet by providing tools and services that allow users to leverage blockchain networks to provide privacy in all areas of their daily lives.
To support this, Oxen released Session. Session is a messaging app designed for activists, protesters, and others in high-risk situations. Due to their decentralized nature, these platforms make it harder for malicious governments or authorities to block, censor, or monitor exchanged content.
In response to these efforts, Kee Jefferys, Chief Technology Officer at Oxen, shares, “Session is specifically designed for activists. It’s a great messaging option for protesters and activities because it’s secure, private, anonymous, and decentralized. When you use Session, you can be sure that you can speak freely.”
With Session, activists will have the opportunity to complete their work calmly and without interruption. Session has already reached the milestone of 1,000,000 downloads on Google Play, with over 300,000 monthly active users.
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