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Transparency through anonymous media

The most effective method against unlawful detention is transparency, making the actions of authorities visible without revealing those that made it visible. Free media are the basis for transparency.

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Written by DeletedUser


This contribution aims specifically at situations where people are detained by a central or otherwise legitimate authority either without specifying a reason or a reason not consistent with the regional law. This may often go along with prisoners “vanishing”, so localization and their state of well-being are unknown.

The source of the evil, so to speak is the visibility of individuals of undesired attitude and the ability of authorities to single them out and detain them. There are also other reasons for unlawful detention and this proposal has reduced relevance for those. The best approach in my opinion is to protect the privacy of communication of individuals in danger of detention. Along the same line the most effective weapon against unlawful detention is transparency, making the actions of authorities visible without revealing those that made it visible. I therefore propose an anonymised peer-to-peer network based news-channel (or network of news channels).

In case what brings people in danger of detention is distribution of information, building an anonymous information infrastructure is what protects these them best. Because they would do it anyway, more safely this way. And more may dare to join. The same network will be used to report on the detention of the individual. There is nothing more powerful than transparency to undermine unlawful or unethical behavior.

An anonymous news channel (anonymous regarding the true identity of the reporter and the path of information flow) should be an interesting complement for many of the proposed solutions. Everyone with a mobile device, PC or a hidden USB camera can add life video casts, everyone text reports. This will require an app to manage the peer-to-peer communication, receive and send news reports (also those just transferred over one's device) and alert when new film footage or text reports become available. Through gateway servers also blog posts, tweets or facebook messages etc. could be routed through this network.

Effect1: Central authorities will find it more difficult to prevent media footing from spreading, as this can replace centrally controlled media.

Effect2: If someone is put into detention and there are witnesses nearby they can feed news footage into the network and possibly tag it to the person in question, documenting the incident.

Effect3: Everyone can be a journalist

For news exchange I propose a peer-to-peer network building encrypted connections between members as suggested by other contributions. Each peer may only know a limited number of other peers to limit impact on the network if some devices are captured before network connection can be interrupted. News are only stored locally for a limited amount of time and deleted automatically after a few hours, but will usually be automatically propagated to other nodes of the network before that. But probably no local encryption. That can usually be broken in time anyway and may be outlawed in its own right.

Still, it is only a matter of time until an authority enters the network (even a network of trust). Panic delete of files, cell-phone lock-down, delete of contacted servers and server app itself in case of arrest is critical. In addition the peer to peer network should be re-configured on a frequent basis automatically. For that the server app (probably on a daily basis) requests from its neighoring servers information about their connections, connects to them directly and forgets the original server permanently. This way the network is additionally anonymised. Additional security can be achieved if anonymization cascades analogous to the TOR network are used, although those may be easy to block.

Peers initially enter the network by finding a persons who trusts them enough to hand them his app and a current server contact. From thereon the network is continuously extended and rebuilds itself automatically.

My Virtual Team

Losts of other contributors! Mostly this is based on Hu Lei's work:

How could this idea also be adapted to work in low-tech situations?

Hardly, although telephones are also not high-tech anymore.


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Hi Johannes, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know if you face any problems. You should be able to use the 'Update entry' button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring ideas on OpenIDEO.

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Tnak you for the comment. I had some problems uploading images yesterday, worked out today.