Syrian Activist Arrested By Secret Police Merely For Having Livestreaming App Installed On His Phone

from the app-tip-off dept

Police and security forces around the world -- and that includes in the West -- hate being recorded when they're overstepping the mark in the execution of their duties, since it allows the public to challenge official accounts, and even to use videos to seek redress. But there's one thing worse than being recorded, and that's being livestreamed: even the most nimble authorities can't confiscate the recording from its creator, since it's already been uploaded for the world to see.

No wonder, then, that the livestreaming app Bambuser has become one of the most popular -- and potent -- weapons for activists to deploy against heavy-handed policing, allowing them to fight back in a non-violent way against institutional brutality around the world. But the inevitable corollary is that powerful as it is, Bambuser is now seen as a threat in itself. Last year, the Egyptian government blocked Bambuser, and this worrying tweet from the official Bambuser account, suggests that the Syrian authorities are going even further in their crackdown on the service:

We just got this: "secret police arrested a person because he had bambuser application on his mobile" Disgusting to hear! #Assad
No more is known about the fate of that activist, but it's a disturbing turn of events when just the presence of a piece of general software on your phone is grounds for arrest. Of course, it would be relatively easy to disguise that app with a fake name and icon, but it won't take police long to move on to the next stage and try opening up apps to see what they do. And in any case, anyone actually using Bambuser or similar streaming tools to record police and security force actions now knows that they are in danger.

This shows that the theory that turning everyone into citizen journalists to broadcast what's happening, as it's happening, will give activists new tools to fight against oppressive regimes is fine -- until the mere possession of those tools is enough to get you arrested.

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    Ninja (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 11:59am

    Makes sense for Syria as it is in a very problematic moment. But wait till it starts being criminalized everywhere. When you have things like China and Russia in main roles in the international scenario and the US (which nowadays is not that different) it's not hard to envision this kind of app being widely outlawed.

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      That's not it. You have a dictatorial government that is being overthrown because of a fundamental shift to the want of a better life. As James C Davies(pdf) stated in 1965:

      Revolution is most likely to occur when a
      prolonged period of rising espectations (material and nonmaterial) and rising gratifications is followed by a short period of sharp reversal, during which the gap between what people want and what they get quickly widens and becomes intolerable.


      The government is slowly losing its legitimacy and fighting to maintain it. The people in Syria lived with dictatorial rule for quite some time but the Arab Spring movement showed people a new life. New jobs are attainable by overthrowing a corrupt regime. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not put together its own Marshall Plan to help the Arab world.

      What we're seeing is the last remnants of a government looking to crush opposition. Unfortunately, democratic countries haven't come in to help bring up a middle class. Instilling actual democracies in areas is quite difficult when you have a ton of people who believe in a small government that works against those interests.

       

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        Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

        Re: Re:

        The government is slowly losing its legitimacy and fighting to maintain it. The people in Syria lived with dictatorial rule for quite some time but the Arab Spring movement showed people a new life.

        What do you do, though, if the will of the people is to elect a conservative religious government?

        Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film - NYTimes.com: "When the protests against an American-made online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or resentment of Washington, protesters and their sympathizers here said. It was also a demand that many of them described with the word 'freedom,' although in a context very different from the termís use in the individualistic West: the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values."

         

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          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So wait, they want us to respect their definition of freedom while simultaneously disrespecting our definition. Why does this sound familiar?

           

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          Jay (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 5:51pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What do you do, though, if the will of the people is to elect a conservative religious government?

          More education trumps religious zealotry. They've needed help in defining the things that are needed in the new democracy that is forming.

          "When the protests against an American-made online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or resentment of Washington, protesters and their sympathizers here said. It was also a demand that many of them described with the word 'freedom,' although in a context very different from the termís use in the individualistic West: the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values."

          The film was the tenderbox. But that's not what everyone is truly against here. .

          The three grievances I've listed (and there are others) aren't wholly unrelated to that horrible YouTube video. They're interpreted by some Muslims as evidence of American contempt for the Muslim world, and the video was taken as yet more confirmation.

          Obviously, the fact that an American policy contributes to anti-Americanism in the Muslim world isn't by itself a decisive argument against the policy. But ever since terrorism became a significant threat to American interests, this consideration has belonged in the policy cost-benefit calculus. All the more so in the wake of the Arab Spring, when the policies of Egypt and some other Muslim countries are more responsive to popular opinion, and anti-American sentiment can therefore translate more directly into anti-American policies.

           

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 6:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            More education trumps religious zealotry. They've needed help in defining the things that are needed in the new democracy that is forming.

            I'd like to believe that, but we've got a sizable number of people in the US who believe what they want to believe even when confronted with facts that suggest otherwise. Once people get a bias into their heads, no matter how irrational, it seems like they cling to it forever. If we have people in the US who believe in questionable or totally false constructs, I don't know how we can expect the rest of the world to be more open to adjusting their beliefs.

             

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              Jay (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 9:29am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              But that main bias had two problems: the de-emphasis on liberal arts and our media having the ability to lie to us.

              I'm positive that if we wanted to have an informed citizenry, it is attainable in one or two generations. The same can be said of any other country that is evolving into a democratic state.

               

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 9:49am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I'm positive that if we wanted to have an informed citizenry, it is attainable in one or two generations.

                Well, I totally support the effort. I can accept diversity of opinions, but I can't accept opinions formed on inaccurate information because working from that perspective won't likely produce acceptable solutions.

                If people are led to believe their problems are caused by factors that have nothing to do with those problems, then they are ill-equipped to actually solve the problems.

                 

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        Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 6:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Okay. Here's an example of the kind of thinking that is influencing politics in this country. How do you change their opinions? They believe Agenda 21 is a conspiracy to take over the US, so anything that is at all related to green communities they are against. They think bike paths are a plot outlaw cars.

        Agenda 21 and the UN Plot to Take Over America: Bill Proposed In Florida Expands Its Reach To Stop Just About Everything Green : TreeHugger

         

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        JJ Joseph, Sep 23rd, 2012 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re:

        @Jay:"What we're seeing is the last remnants of a government looking to crush opposition. Unfortunately, democratic countries haven't come in to help bring up a middle class."

        So how are we supposed to help an emerging Syrian "middle-class" of Al-Quaeda criminal terrorists? Why are you even thinking of helping these criminals? Do you have any idea of how to help the Syrian Christians who are about to be slaughtered by these "middle class" savages?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

    you know when things have gotten so bad in your country when the steps taken to prevent something from happening actually turn out to have a worse effect than whatever the something was going to have. we are past that point now almost everywhere. governments are using the threat that because something/anything/everything might happen, they have to have 24/7 surveillance of communications and movements on all citizens. not that there is any paranoia, of course. this just makes it easier for a rogue element to achieve what it wants. it doesn't have to do anything itself, it's done for it.

     

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    Duckdive, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    Sounds like OWS

    Sounds a lot like what happens when an Occupy Wall Streeter tries to video.

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Sounds like OWS

      Welcome to neo-fascism. The first casualty is always the truth tellers.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 11:34am

      Re: Sounds like OWS

      > Sounds a lot like what happens when an
      > Occupy Wall Streeter tries to video.

      Or a Tea Partier, or someone just pulled over for speeding.

      Disheveled, unhygienic bohemians don't have a monopoly on being oppressed.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

    Livestreamers were the first arrests being made this morning in New York City.

     

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    Justinc, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    The revolution will not be televised, it will be streamed

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

    Just Wait

    Until they start arresting people for NOT having a facebook account

     

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      A Nonymouse, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 9:41am

      Re: Just Wait

      Well we already see that most of the media will not let you comment without a facebook account. (and ask for you ID and password!?)

       

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        btr1701 (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re: Just Wait

        > Until they start arresting people for NOT having
        > a facebook account

        Some employers-- ironically a lot of police departments among them-- have already taken the step beyond asking for access to an applicant's Facebook account.

        Because many people have heard about employers doing this and have deleted or canceled their accounts before applying, they now consider it to be a black mark against you in the interview if you don't have a Facebook account at all.

         

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    arcan, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

    at this rate, the world is just ripening for WWIII and i at this point am fully convinced that it is inevitable. the only question is, how bad will the damage be.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

    It would have been nice if the attackers of the US Consulate in Libya would have had some one using Bambuser to live stream the attacks.
    Right now I am more worried about the authoritarian encroachment here in the USA, everyone should have Bambuser up and running to protect themselves.

     

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    bubba, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    He's lucky to be alive

    It's Syria, for Christ's sakes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2012 @ 6:59pm

    So he was app-rehended?

     

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