The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
Demonstrations broke out all over New York City Monday for what was billed as a day of resurgence for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The May 1 protests were months in the planning and drew 15,000 people at one point to Union Square, according to Mother Jones. As in the fall, the protesters used Twitter to communicate. The official Twitter account of occupywallst.org, @OccupyWallSt, has 159,281 followers. It usually tweets about assemblies and the revolution, but anyone who was logged on early this morning got treated to a few off-color remarks.
All Your Tweets Are Belong to Us
Vibe, the anonymous microblogging service used during the Occupy Wall Street protests in the fall, is back. The app has a new release for iPhone and, later today, Android as well. The releases are timed to the citywide Occupy Wall Street protests planned for tomorrow.
Vibe works like Twitter, but users don’t have to register their names. Instead, a message is pinned to a specific location and shown only to users within the designated radius. Vibe also allows users to set an expiration date on their messages. Activists can use the service to coordinate in real-time, creator Hazem Sayed told Betabeat, and recently it’s been discovered by users in the Middle East.
The new features should make Vibe even more appealing to protesters. “The main thing that’s been added is this idea of a double hashtag,” Mr. Sayed said. “Unlike the standard hashtag, where you put it in and it’s vis to everyone, a double hashtag makes that thread invisible. So if you do ##newyorkcity, it doesn’t show up in the public stream. The only way to find it is to search for it explicitly.”
When Hackers Attack
You must have known those terms of service you didn’t read would come back to bite you in some Orwellian way. This can’t be good, said a tiny voice in the corner of your mind as you clicked “yes” on Twitter’s lengthy legalese. Oh well! Hashtags! But a New York judge just ruled that the state does not need a warrant to subpoena “any and all user information” related to a Twitter account. Why? Because your tweets belong to Twitter.
The question came up in the case of an Occupy Wall Street protester who is being charged with disorderly conduct during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The defense’s legal team filed a motion to quash the subpoena, which was just denied.
Internet Wants to Be Free
Occupy Wall Street, or occupy Wall Street’s servers? A new report from Florida-based security firm Prolexic says financial services companies were targeted in three times as many attacks in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011. “This quarter was characterized by extremely high volumes of malicious traffic directed at our financial services clients,” said Neal Quinn, Prolexic’s vice president of operations, said in a statement.
Bad news for Wall Street. Good news for Prolexic.
Tweet the Public
This is a guest post from Cole Stryker, a writer and publicist working in New York. It is an excerpt from his book, “Identity Wars: Online Anonymity, Privacy and Control,” which is slated for a September release from Overlook Press.
On March 27, 2012 I had the opportunity to attend a private screening of a mini-documentary called “Free the Network,” produced by Vice’s tech site, Motherboard.tv. The documentary opens at Occupy Wall Street, first depicted as a wacky, disparate band of activists which developed a curious techno-centric bent with the arrival of Anonymous, along with a more or less disorganized faction of hackers who wished to bring about social revolution through technology. The film centers on one of them, a 21-year old college dropout named Isaac Wilder, the executive director of the Free Network Foundation.
Mr. Wilder builds communications systems based around Freedom Towers, DIY kits that fit in a suitcase containing everything one would need to set up an ad hoc peer to peer network. The instructions are simple: “Plug it in. Press the big green button.” It creates a local network that stays up no matter what happens to the wider global Internet. All of this is mostly funded through private donations from family, friends, and fellow revolutionaries. Mr. Wilder estimates that the equipment required to assemble a Freedom Tower would have cost over $10,000 as recent as five years ago. Today: $2,000. And it’s completely grid-independent. That means solar powered batteries, a DC power system, a server, a router and a suite of powerful software, all contained in a suitcase.
Michael Bloomberg wants to be New York’s first digital mayor, but all this negging on Twitter is really getting to him. “Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments” in cities, the mayor said during a speech in Sinagpore yesterday, reports the New York Times. “We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day.”
Law and Order
When we first told you about Vibe, a New York-based pseudonymous mobile messaging app, last September, Occupy Wall Street was in full swing. In fact, Vibe app creator Hazem Sayed earned the nickname “White Hat” for walking around Zuccotti Park passing out flyers for his protester-friendly service. There was even an iPad hooked up to a projector showing hashtagged messages about #OWS.
Well, as TechCrunch reported yesterday, we weren’t the only ones to take note. Betaworks quietly acquired Vibe back in December. According to the blog, the deal was “likely in the low six figures, with Betaworks now owning a majority of Vibe.” In a post on the Betaworks Tumblr this morning, CEO John Borthwick wrote, “There’s no better feeling than falling in love,” noting that Mr. Sayed will stay on to run the company.
All Your Tweets Are Belong to Us
A proposed Oregon law that could have criminalized tweets about Occupy Wall Street has died in committee due to public outcry.
State senate bill 1534 would have made illegal the “use of electronic communication to solicit two or more persons to commit [a] specific crime at [a] specific time and location.” The now-dead bill would have carried penalties for using Twitter, Facebook, etc. to call on others to engage in criminal activity as severe as the punishment for actually committing the act.
Oregon State Sen. Doug Whitsett, the chief sponsor of the bill, said he was targeting “flash mob crimes,” in which many people descend on a specific location at a specific time to commit a crime, a scenario that was actually not completely made up: a “mob” of four people who “may be using some of the social media such as Facebook and Twitter to schedule an event if you will” robbed a Victoria’s Secret in Georgetown last summer, and gang members in New York reportedly used Twitter to coordinate the annual “Crips Holiday.”
Law and Order
The Manhattan District attorney recently faxed Twitter a subpoena asking the social media company to appear in court and to bring “any and all user information” related to the Twitter account of Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris. (No, it wasn’t because Mr. Harris started the rumor that Radiohead was playing in Zuccotti Park: the subpoena is related to Mr. Harris’s alleged disorderly conduct during the famous Saturday march that got more than 700 protesters arrested for walking in the street over the Brooklyn Bridge.) Yesterday, Mr. Harris’s lawyer asked the court to toss the subpoena, calling overbroad, improper and abusive, according to the New York Times. But would Twitter have heeded the call?
The state of New York has ordered Twitter to come to court and bring the login information for the account of an Occupy Wall Street activist, Malcolm Harris, as well as tweets from September 15 to the end of the year. Mr. Harris, @destructuremal on Twitter, was tweeting from the front lines of the now infamous Brooklyn Bridge mass arrests, which is now the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by the Partnership for Civil Justice. [via PrivacySOS]