The Rise of the Leaderless Protest

Most international news outlets were inundated over the last month with reports from Hong Kong about protests against China. The politics of the region enabled the world to appreciate precisely how vital technology is to fight against oppressive regimes. The protests initially started small, but within days the number of people showing up to these protests was well in the millions, prompting severe crackdown from officials within the government.

The key to fueling the new rebellion comes in the form of two technology tenets that are essential pillars of most communication applications today – end-to-end encryption and online anonymity. While many protestors in Hong Kong utilize technology freely, others see tech as a means for the Chinese government to see more of their activities online. Recently, questions have been raised about telecoms manufacturer Huawei working in collaboration with the Chinese government. Despite these fears, instant messaging and social media have proven rallying points for getting people together who share the same views.

Tools of the Rebellion

The Hong Kong protesters utilize encrypted applications, a Reddit-like forum for organizing and Apple’s Airdrop technology that allows for the transmission of data through Bluetooth in the form of messages or pictures. The main functions that protesters rely on from their technology are the ability to remain anonymous online and the ability to spread information as far and wide as possible.

Not a Completely New Phenomenon

The Hong Kong protests have brought tech into the spotlight for helping to enable protesters, but it’s not the first time that technology has been used in this way. Turkish civil disobedience in 2013 happened thanks to the use of WhatsApp to coordinate groups of people. Thanks to the utility and anonymity guaranteed by some of these applications, protesters may start relying on technology much more than ever before.