“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.
“That’s a text message that thousands of Ukrainian protesters spontaneously received on their cell phones today, as a new law prohibiting public demonstrations went into effect. It was the regime’s police force, sending protesters the perfectly dystopian text message to accompany the newly minted, perfectly dystopian legislation. In fact, it’s downright Orwellian (and I hate that adjective, and only use it when absolutely necessary, I swear).
But that’s what this is: it’s technology employed to detect noncompliance, to hone in on dissent. The NY Times reports that the “Ukrainian government used telephone technology to pinpoint the locations of cell phones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters early on Tuesday.” Near. Using a cell phone near a clash lands you on the regime’s hit list.
“It’s further reminder that authoritarian regimes are exploiting the very technology once celebrated as a vehicle for liberation; last year, in Turkey, you’ll recall, the state rounded up dissident Twitter users. Now, Ukraine is tracing the phone signal directly. Dictators have already proved plenty adept at pulling the plug on the internet altogether.
Image from Business Insider