Monday, January 02, 2012

Occupy Techies Working on Their Own Social Network

According to Wired, an online magazine that publishes reports on new and developing technology that could affect either culture, the economy, or politics, some tech-savvy individuals involved with Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are currently working to build their own protest-focused version of Facebook.

"I don't want to say we're making our own Facebook. But we're making our own Facebook," said Ed Knutson, one of the developers that has joined other activists working to build the new social network.

It is understandable why the protestors would like to have a social network with which to communicate with other protestors. In both 2010 and 2011, the world saw how effective social media could be when it came to protesting. In Egypt the use of Twitter and Facebook to inform Egyptian citizens about protests was so successful that the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak shut down the Internet in the country.

Twitter was also able to turn a small OWS rally on September 17 into a national movement simply from the top-trending hashtags that were listed. Clearly, social media can raise mass awareness; however, Knutson does not want to use any of the current social media networks. "We don't trust Facebook with private messages among activists," he said.

Since most of the OWS camps that were spread across the country have been broken up, the activists working on the new social network hope that other fellow protestors will use it as a tool.

“A lot of what we are trying to do is build a better conversation so that this cacophonous discussion can be more coordinated,” said Sam Boyer, a developer and activist currently involved with the group of network developers.

Both Boyer and Knutson believe that the site should be able to be used by protestors across the United States, as well as around the world. However, it is important to note that not just anyone will be able to use this social network. In order to join the network, users must be invited by an existing member.

"You have to know someone in real life who sponsors you," Knutson said.

Activists realize how important it is that they have a secure network that they can communicate through, especially after the incident concerning Massachusetts district attorney slapping Twitter with a subpoena last week dealing with the viewing of information from the @OccupyBoston account.

Boyer also believes that it is important to make sure that someone is truly trustworthy before they are allowed to join the network. How exactly he plans to measure that, he didn’t really say, but I don’t think trustworthiness is the easiest thing to measure; however, it is very important if this network plans to be global. In other countries sometimes it means risking your life to be involved in a protest.

Although the group is working to create an incredibly secure network, Boyer said, "These networks will be perfectly fine—until they are not, and it will be a one-day-to-the-next thing."

Sources: Wired - Occupy Geeks Are Building a Facebook for the 99% and PCMag - Occupy Nerds Building Their Own Facebook Alternative

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