Pandemic pushes protestors to take movement online

Be it in Nigeria or Hong Kong, people are turning technology into a tool to raise their voices

In the era of social distancing, Protestors have, instead of lowering their voices, decided to shift online to highlight their issues. Technology is providing a secure space for protestors and helping them with documentation, emergency, and community needs. Here are a few such examples.

Archiving Tiananmen Square Massacre

The Fourth of June Memorial Museum which hosts artifacts from the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre has been under the Chinese government’s radar. Currently in Hong Kong, the museum has been forced to change the location of its exhibits four times in the last eight years. While discussing the massacre is considered a taboo, Mak, a 69-year-old social activist and chairman of the museum committee, is trying to digitise the archives of 1989.

Mak, along with other activists, is in a hurry to create a online public database which hosts all banned information from the massacre. They aim for this to go beyond China’s censors and be comprehensible to local and global population. The digitisation movement started crowdfunding in June, raising 1.6 million Hong Kong dollars.

Currently, a group of technical experts, researchers, and translators are hurrying to create this archive, before the National Security Law removes the physical exhibits. China’s new National Security Law is based on strong censorship of everything, be it books, online content, academic syllabus, or any other media which poses a “threat” to the nation.

Pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong

Apart from this, the Hong Kong extradition protests that are being held for over a year have used multiple apps and digital spaces to communicate, archive and organise their dissent.

Multiple violent protests in Hong Kong went askew once many perspectives came in. In some, authorities blamed protestors, others claimed lack of evidence. After the violent siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in late 2019, Fu-King Wa,a professor of journalism, decided to build Weiboscope, a project collecting censored posts from Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform.

The platform started off by backing up information from a hundred Telegram channels, and now is used for archiving and organising protests.

Protests in Nigeria

A protestor at Nigeria's End SARS protest
image credit : Wikimedia Commons

In Nigeria, the ‘End SARS’ protests have engulfed the nation’s youth. Citizens are protesting to dismantle the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a part of the Nigerian police, due to cases of harassment and violence.

As the people are protesting against authorities, they now lay their trust in private local apps. These apps look at issues of emergency, mobilisation of protests, and caution before stepping out.

Sety and Aabo are increasingly popular among protestors. They come with panic buttons, location-based danger notifications, and emergency contacting option. Apart from this, protestors are active on Twitter through the platform @sars_watch.

According to Amnesty International, 56 people have been killed across the country due the protests. On October 20, 2020, police forces opened fired on protestors in Lagos killing 10 people.

Aabo, which is available on Google Play and Apple’s AppStore, also has a crisis button and live tracking. Also, Sety, an app developed by Olumide Adetiwa, was created for the safety of Nigerian women. The app has now expanded to categorise emergency situations, notify selected contacts in case of emergency and notify people close by. Sety currently has more than 12,000 downloads.


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