Democratic Participation

Vibe burst onto the scene following reports that protesters were using it to coordinate with each other at the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and camps.

As a smartphone app for anonymous broadcast messaging, Vibe is going after an important idea. In fact, it’s been promoted as an anonymous version of Twitter. Anyone with the app can post - there are no accounts - and users are able to limit the lifetime of the messages (from a few minutes to a few days) and the location to which they are broadcast (from a few meters to anywhere).

Vibe is clearly a useful tool. Some of the ways it has apparently been used include asking anonymous questions at a conference, and communicating with neighbours about local events. The ‘anonymity’ of not having to create an account may be perfectly adequate for these situations. However, when it comes to its use by activists - where it is being promoted as an appropriate tool for people with serious security implications should their identify be revealed - we need to delve deeper into promises of anonymity.

In the case of Vibe, our analysis revealed some serious concerns. Some of these have come up in other reviews as well.

12.22.11 MelissaLoudon Democratic Participation

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to amplify the voices of poor people around the world. Demand Dignity is an economic, cultural, and social rights campaign for the organization and the online platform,, was launched in May 2009. Since then, the site has collected 57,384 comments, or “voices,” from people around the world, via SMS, Twitter, and on the Demand Dignity website.

The campaign attempts to give a voice to people who are living in poverty or who have had their human rights violated, said Sarah Pyke, communications coordinator of the campaign. It enables people to be able to access their rights, hold their governments to account, and to be able to make their voices heard. These aims led to the creation of the platform, an interactive website where people can submit audio, video, or text reports and answer prompted questions such as What does living in dignity mean to you?

One response to this question, from Kenya, was, "living somewhere comfortably in terms of shelter, good health care and having sustainable education." spoke with Pyke and with Shehzaad Shams, Project Coordinator for onnline communities and e-activism, to hear more about the platform and how it leverages mobile tech.

How It Works

Shams and Pyke said that Amnesty International wanted to make use of the latest technologies in terms of social media, specifically in how technology could be used to amplify voices. The platform itself is available in four languages -- English, Arabic, French and Spanish -- and “voices” can be submitted in any language.

05.03.11 MelissaUlbricht Advocacy Democratic Participation

Gibberbot is an instant messaging app for Android phones, developed by The Guardian Project. Gibberbot implements off-the-record messaging (OTR). Off-the-record messaging is a way to conduct an instant messaging conversation with the following attributes

  • Encryption. An eavesdropper cannot read your messages
  • Authentication. You can verify the identity of the person you’re chatting to - or at least of the account they are using.
  • Deniability. It is not possible for a third party to prove that a particular user sent or received a particular message.
  • Perfect forward secrecy. It is not possible for an attacker to decrypt a previous conversation, even if he/she obtains the encryption keys used to encrypt it.

Gibberbot can also use Orbot to route your chats over the Tor network. This prevents an observer from following the source and destination of your messages (effectively, from knowing you are chatting) and provides a way to circumvent web censorship that may involve chat servers being blocked.

Off-the-record messaging only works when both parties in the conversation are using it. This means both parties need to use Gibberbot, another mobile app, or chat software that supports it. Currently Gibberbot is the only option we know of for mobile phones. Off-the-record plugins are available for several PC chat programs, including Pidgin (Windows and Linux), Adium (Mac), Trillian (Windows) and Miranda (Windows).

10.13.11 MelissaLoudon Advocacy Democratic Participation