Wall Street demonstrators are using a new app, called “Vibe,” to organize protests, showing how social media is transforming to meet users’ needs.
Vibe is like Twitter, but with some major differences that make it an ideal choice for protest groups. Users don’t have to register and can anonymously post the tweet-like messages, determining how far they travel since the technology is location-based.
For example, “a whisper” can be seen within 150 feet of the user’s mobile phone, a “speak” can be seen up to 1,500 feet away, a “shout” 3 miles, a “yell” 300 miles, and a “bellow” can be seen worldwide. Location-based capability is a big advantage to those who don’t want to draw outside attention and want to target a message within a specific location parameter.
The sender can also decide how long the message will exist — 15 minutes, an hour, a day, seven days, or permanently. And when the time is up, the message disappears. The protestors in New York are using quick messages to warn fellow demonstrators about approaching police, assured these short-lived messages will be gone soon after it is received.
After last Saturday’s mass arrests, some activists in New York’s Zuccotti Park used Vibe “to vent about what happened, talk about police brutality and arrests,” said the app’s creator, Hazem Sayed, a professional developer commonly known among the protesters as “White Hat.”
“It’s anonymous,” one protest said, “so not only are you able to send out relevant information to a small radius, but it also disappears, there’s no record of it, so no one can come after the person who sent it.”
Vibe’s emergence as a tool for organizing social protest comes as more established social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have been largely credited with fueling the Arab Spring, allowing activists to organize large-scale protests in short timeframes. Social media’s role in the Arab Spring may have been due in part to governmental leaders’ ignorance of the technology and how it can be monitored.
Increasingly, authorities are taking more notice of and sometimes even filter these services, and those who continue to use them to organize dissent may face reprisals if their identity is revealed, especially as governments seek access to private information on networks and services in the aftermath of many recent upheavals, such as the riots in London.
Vibe was initially created for students and colleges, for people at outdoor events, enjoying concerts and business people at conferences, according to Sayed, who said he created it in response to the lack of anonymity on the Web. The Wall Street protesters using Vibe can remain anonymous, but it looks like that is a luxury its creator cannot enjoy.