As part of its transparency policy Git Hub Has published Spanish police Guardia Civil letter demanding to remove the #tsunamidemocractic page along with other similar requests from Russia and China.
Dear Sir or Madam,
This is the official e-mail account of the Lawful Interception Unit of the Guardia Civil—which is one of the Spanish Law Enforcement Agencies. Since 1999, our unit has been working as the Guardia Civil’s Single Point of Contact with Internet Service Providers and every other Online Service Provider that uses the telecommunication network in order to provide any service. Our main task is to request them important information or any other action regarding judicial investigations carried out by our investigation teams.
In Spain, judicial authorities are responsible for the supervision and control of websites in order to prevent the dissemination of criminal content as it is specified in the article 35 of our Law 34/2002 and the article 13 of our Criminal Procedure Code.
As you may have seen in the international media, Spain is currently facing a series of riots involving serious public disorder and main infrastructure’s sabotage. There is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the National High Court where the movement Tsunami Democratic has been confirmed as a criminal organization driving people to commit terrorist attacks. Tsunami Democratic’s main goal is coordinating these riots and terrorist actions by using any possible mean.
Among them, they have developed an app that provides information about those riots and allows their users to communicate between themselves in order to coordinate those actions. This app has been uploaded in GitHub by the user [private] ([private]), where people that want to participate in riots can access his repository ([private]) and install different versions of this app in their devices. Moreover, other repositories with the same information have been created to prevent the content being withheld.
Concerning this situation, and in compliance with the Law, we send this e-mail with a national court warrant attached in order to request both withholding the content and data related to the aforementioned investigation. This is the same procedure that we follow with other service providers located in the United States, such as Microsoft or Google.
What is Tsunami Democràtic?
It is one faction of the multifaceted pro-independence protest movement in Catalonia, formed shortly before October 14. But despite its young age, it is relevant: according to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, the group instigated what is arguably the most disruptive protest action undertaken so far – the mass occupation of Barcelona’s El Prat airport by an estimated 10,000 protesters. It is especially how they did it that caught many people’s attention: everything Tsunami Democràtic does is orchestrated completely online – and it isn’t clear who exactly is behind it.
The organisation broadcasts both on Twitter, where it currently counts more than 188,000 followers, and on Telegram, where it has as amassed more than 330,000 subscribers. It’s also launched an ambitious protest-organisation app – but more on that later. Its webpage, featuring a video of a wave engulfing the screen, appears more like a glossy travel site. (There are reports from within Catalonia that the website has been taken down in Spain; it remains accessible from the UK as of the evening of October 18.) The tsunami moniker might be inspired by the Bruce Lee ‘Be water’ quote that has been co-opted by the Hong Kong protestors to describe the movement as fluid, fast moving and adaptable.
“I didn’t have a lot of faith in Tsunami Democràtic at first because there’s been a lot of groups who sold themselves like they were going to be the revolution and then came to nothing,” says Alba Medrano, a 28-year-old activist based in Barcelona who has been involved in the pro-independence movement for the past 11 years. However, since the successful staging of the airport, confidence in the group has grown. She says right now activists are just waiting for the group’s next protest action to be called.
Medrano says that it’s still primarily other channels that she and fellow activists consult for updates. In particular, the Anonymous Catalonia group’s Telegram channel. “There, there’s a retransmission of everything that’s happening. They keep posting every minute what’s happening everywhere, so that’s how we get information.”
What does Tsunami Democràtic’s app do?
The app is a communication platform that’s been designed to organise and mobilise protestors in a secure and efficient way – employing geolocation and friend-to-friend technologies to ensure only trusted members have access.
Getting access to the app isn’t the most straight forward. It isn’t available through Android’s Play Store or on Apple’s App Store. Instead, you have to download an APK file (an Android Package file used to distribute applications on Google’s Android operating system) from the website, and manually install it on your phone. The software doesn’t work on iPhones because Apple’s iOS has stricter safeguards in place.
The installation process may be used to avoid the chance that big tech firms remove it from app stores following pressure from the government, the exact fate that befell a Hong Kong protest organising app. It also allowed whoever developed the app to keep their identity more private than if they had published their creation through an official app store.
There’s more. To ensure the app remains in the hands of genuine protestors, rather than police or other infiltrators, users can only access it through a QR code from someone who is already a member of the network. Each person who joins receives ten QR codes to invite others.
The app also employs geolocation technology to coordinate activity. When you first download the app, you’re asked for your location (a loose estimation rather than exact coordinates). This means people can be organised in geographical “cells”, and protestors can only see actions taking place within a certain radius – preventing information from sloshing out across the network, and limiting what an infiltrator would be able to find out.