Occupy Wall Street activists are creating their own social networking site, hoping to establish protected digital protest space as physical camps continue to face legal problems.
The site, tentatively named The Global Square and expected to launch later this month, hopes to provide a place “where people of all nations can come together as equals to participate in the coordination of collective actions and the formulation of common goals and aspirations,” according to a post by Occupy-blog RoarMag.
The site’s creation arrives as Occupy movements around the globe face increasing scrutiny from politicians and law enforcement, with many physical locations forced to shut down due to concerns about hygiene, public safety, and environmental damage.
Activists also became nervous last week after a Massachusetts district attorney subpoenaed Twitter, forcing the social networking giant to disclose information from the @OccupyBoston account. Fearing a legal precedent, the Occupy development team is speeding up its efforts to carve out its own secure space on the Internet.
Social networking sites proved a valuable tool for large-scale protests in 2011, from Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. In Egypt, leader Hosni Mubarak shut off the country’s internet in an attempt to quell protesters from organizing via social networks, and governments are increasingly taking notice of organizational protest sites on Facebook.
“We don’t want to trust Facebook with private messages among activists,” said developer Ed Knutson to Wired. “I don’t want to say we’re making our own Facebook… but, we’re making our own Facebook.”
The Global Square differs from other social networking sites because it will remain open-source, allowing developers to continuously create new content. Perhaps for this reason, the site will also require users be invited by a friend or fellow protester, and will be closed to the general public.
Other planned unique features include a map of uprisings taking place around the world, links to find movements close by, debate forums, and collaboration space.
The Global Square could provide activists with the means for even larger protests in 2012, but also draw criticism if such gatherings become violent or are deemed inappropriate. Either way, the site will likely serve as a niche central communication hub for protesters across the globe.