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Substitute communications channels in the event of an information crackdown

How innovation kicks-in when a government targets prominent activists on social networks or decides to block access to them in order to curtail communications?

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Many activists using digital channels during the Arab Spring were, of course, at risk of being identified. One Libyan-American, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing a fear for his life, said he was terrified when security forces raided his neighbour’s house: “I thought they were coming to get me because I have been posting messages on Facebook,” he said.

Alternative means were sought in order to continue to disseminate messages and mobilise via digital channels, resulting in, to cite one example, the innovative use for the dating website,, which was used by anti-Gaddafi protesters to pass messages to one another because of the fear that they were being monitored on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. For example, according to an AOL news story, one user wrote, “I LLLLLove you,” the five Ls in the posting meaning that he had five people with him, ready to join the protests.

In the instance of the Egyptian government's crackdown on communications which, amongst other things, resulted in blocking access to Twitter, the then newly-acquired-by-Google startup, SayNow, rolled out Speak2Tweet, allowing individuals to phone in their messages to a third party service, which then relayed the voice message to Twitter.

For further reading, I'd recommend Kathryn Corrick's enlightening presentation on the use of Social Media during the Arab Spring, which can be seen here.


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