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U.S. creates 'panic button' for democracy activists

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 26 Mar 2011 2:20 User comments (3)

U.S. creates 'panic button' for democracy activists The U.S. State Department is developing and pushing new technology to help democracy activists and other protesters around the world to get around blocks and censorship.
One of the new technologies it is pushing is a panic button app made for mobile phones. In the recent slew of protests throughout the middle east, mobile phones have played a big part in driving the protests. However, mobile phones have been confiscated and data including messages and address books have been mined for information on others involved.

Using the "panic button" would securely erase all of that information on a phone, and also send out a warning to everyone else to be careful.

Since the U.S. Government asked Twitter to delay a scheduled update to allow Iranian users continue to use the site during the 2009 election protests, the administration has realized the usefulness of Internet and other services for activists. However, it has also noted how many oppressive governments can, and do, implement blocks and censorship to make it hard for people to communicate or get certain information.

The state department has been working with technology firms to develop circumvention technology intended for use to get around state firewalls easily and on methods for activists to protect their communications and information from snooping.

"We're working with a group of technology providers, giving small grants," Michael Posner, assistant U.S. secretary of state for human rights and labor. told reporters. "We're operating like venture capitalists. We are looking for the most innovative people who are going to tailor their technology and their expertise to the particular community of people we're trying to protect."

The department has been criticized by lawmakers for taking too long to develop and promote the use of these new tools, but Posner said things are beginning to speed up now.

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3 user comments

126.3.2011 6:03

all this from the people who tried to shut down wikileaks , lmao can anyone smell hypocrisy ?

226.3.2011 13:03

How can u promote democracy when when our gov is supporting dictators,Bahrain,Jordan,Yemen,Saudi Arabia they all are killings his people ,did u see a no fly zone for palestine or any of this countries ? no .our own democracy is at stake .

327.3.2011 12:20

The big difference between Libya and the rest of the Arabic countries in unrest is quite simple: only the Libyan rebels actually directly ASKED the US/NATO/UN for help. You can't cry about US "kingmaking", then decry its lack later, sorry. Maybe you shouldn't have burnt so many Uncle Sam effigies on international TV?

In fact, the rebels in most of those countries have asked other, non-Arab nations to stay out.

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