Technology Turned Against Kiev Protestors

Kiev is exploding in protests as Ukraine’s president attempts to move the country away from EU membership and closer into the Russian orbit.

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.”


Got that?

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.


About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Gail Finke

    Sorry, I didn’t see the link in his piece to the NYT piece that reported it (at least that paper is good for SOMETHING). Our government could do this an theoretically could have done it already, but without the message part — could have registered all people at or near certain events, etc.

  • victor

    Did the government at least give the protesters the option of adding gifts to their mass disturbance registry?

  • irena mangone

    The KGB lives on under different names and don’t think this kind of thing cannot happen in the west. Big brother is watching you. That is why mr Snowden and others are not popular with governments they have told the people what is going in ,and none of it is pleasant


    Does one ask why the Christians and Catholics are sometimes persecuted? It is not always because we are doing Christ’s will. On the contrary, too often it is because we swallow all the manipulations of satan and support EVIL.
    The Kiev demonstrations are VIOLENT in the extreme, the protestors this article is supporting are committing most of the VIOLENCE and wanton destruction. Russia is not the Christians’s or the Catholic’s enemy ANY MORE. Fact is Russia is a Christian nation. The government of Russia is not at war with Christianity or Christian ideals or Catholicism but America’s government IS. Find out who is paying the violent protestors and trying to manipulate the affairs of these other nations. We will find behind the violence in Ukraine, the vilence against the Syrian people, the mass murder of the Libyans people, the invasion of Iraq, behind this is the red dragon or whore of Babylon or the world economic system which is everything about the inherently corrupt and evil petro-dollar system. No, I do not hate Americans. We need, not a New World order of finance but a JUST system of world finances around the globe. The black beast gives life to the red dragon that which masquerades as revolutions and humanitarian wars. I really wonder if the people writing as Christians are any more clued up than St Paul was when he persecuted all those early Christians, Damn you if you are and God bless you if you need the Damascus experience.

  • catholicchristian

    Ursulariches, you make the common logical mistake of assuming “either-or,” when the situation is “both-and.” I attend a Ukrainian Catholic Church, and have people in my parish who are in direct contact with those actually being affected by the persecutions in Ukraine. The government there, JUST LIKE the government of the USA, is blatantly ignoring their Constitution, and passing laws and regulations which illegally increase the power of the government over their serfs… er, citizens.

    In Ukraine, the violence was started by the government; the protestors did not resort to violence until the government forfeited its claim to legitimacy by ignoring the document (the Ukrainian Constitution) which gives it its legitimate power. It is time, and long past time, for the nations of the world to demand that the Ukrainian Government abide by its Constitution; it is time, and long past time, for the current President and current Prime Minister of Ukraine to step down and for early elections to be scheduled; it is time, and long past time, for those who would distract from clear-cut governmental abuses against its people by raising red herrings of economic complaints to get a clue and focus on what can be done.

    Sounds to me like a Damascus experience is just what you need.


    So what does this do with demonstrations about the Ukrainians whom we are told are protesting because they MUST be in the EU?
    Isn’t it strange how in American with the constitution having been over ridden, dictatorship and laws passed for martial law, mass poverty, hunger and homelessness, there are still no masses of protestors with petrol bombs killing the police?

  • catholicchristian

    That’s why the protests started. It’s not why the protests became violent. When a government, which derives its power from the consent of the governed, acts against the interests of its people and uses that power to suppress peaceful expression of the legitimate concerns of its people about that action, that is no longer a legitimate government; it is a tyranny, a group of thugs and hooligans which need to be removed from power as peacefully as possible. When this group of thugs tries to use that illegitimate power to attack the citizens directly, the citizens have a right and duty to protect their freedom.

    And, in America, if a peaceful protest was attacked like the ones in Ukraine were, history says that the response would be less than peaceful; it has happened before.

    May I recommend one of Abraham Lincoln’s sayings to you, as I find it appropriate to your posts: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”


    Let me be thought a fool by fools. So you are saying that the British and Americans should, likewise throw petrol bombs at our police?

  • catholicchristian

    And, as warned, all doubt is removed.