On Tuesday, anyone in the vicinity of the protests received the following message on their phones: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
We know who you are now and you can expect a visit.
I knew the tech existed, but the idea of it being deployed in such a blatantly totalitarian and oppressive way still shocks. Anyone with an active cellphone in that area is identified, complete with a list of contacts and just about everything else anyone needs to know. They don’t even need to be participating in the protest. Just nearby.
Okay, now imagine this going on here, with the full power of the NSA brought to bear on citizens, and you’ll understand why some of us are getting a little jumpy.
Protest leaders said the authorities seemed to be giving the more radical protesters free rein while going out of their way to frighten more moderate ones, particularly with the threatening text messages sent on Tuesday.
The phrasing of the message, about participating in a “mass disturbance,” echoed language in a new law making it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent. The law took effect on Tuesday. And protesters were concerned that the government seemed to be using cutting-edge technology from the advertising industry to pinpoint people for political profiling.
Three cellphone companies in Ukraine — Kyivstar, MTS and Life — denied that they had provided the location data to the government or had sent the text messages, the newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda reported. Kyivstar suggested that it was instead the work of a “pirate” cellphone tower set up in the area.
The messages appeared to have little effect. Three hours after they were sent, riot police officers pushed past barricades of burned buses at that site and were met by a crowd of protesters in ski masks and bicycle helmets, carrying sticks and ready to fight.
The police fired plastic bullets and threw stun grenades. They pressed as far as a cobblestone-throwing catapult built by protesters the day before and dismantled it before retreating.
In case you missed that, they’re building catapults in Kiev.