Sooper-seekritness is not the problem with Firechat

Here is my first (and most likely a very rare) post on Ello in response to Clay Shirky and apparently Firechat’s Chief Marketing Officer

@cshirky (Okay you got me to use ello!) There are many threats beyond sooper-seekritness, and issues beyond Mesh vs “meshy” that need to be considered. I don’t think anyone in the security/hacktivist community means to be disempowering, but I admit sometimes we have to reduce our public messages to “don’t use X app” in order to be heard. I’ve gone through this same discussion with Tibetans using WeChat – they know they are being watched and logged, and sometimes arrested, but the net benefit of being connected is worth the risk. We then say “use X app, but you should know Y”, which is fine. People in the streets are clearly ready for danger. The bigger fear I have about these communities on WeChat, and the people in the streets adopting FireChat is not what can happen to an individual, but what can happen to the crowd, movement or campaign. When the lights go off, will it really magically mesh as much as they want you to think? Does it defend against misinformation, social engineering, impersonation or have any way to block or defend against bad actors? I think Firechat’s answer would be “yes of course!” and “that is not our problem”, while I and others might disagree. Trust me, I have a long history foisting consumer social media tools onto activists groups, but in this case, I just can’t… yet!

@dalijet No one is trying to smear you. You just need to be ready for the spotlight, transparency and responsibility required when you latch your wagon to situations when groups are hitching their movements, freedom and lives, to your app. It is great if you can both serve humans and solve problems at Burning Man and Occupy Central – you’ve touched on a real base need, and thought outside of the typical architecture. That is commendable. I also know that the Occupy Central folks chose you, so you somehow broke through the noise of WeChat and WhatsApp, and showed them there are more possibilities for connecting. That is also a great feat. Now you must earn the trust they’ve put in you, and that many others surely will down the road, and fulfill the features and functionality you’ve touted. You must ensure your new users communities are not somehow subverted or made more vulnerable, by all choosing your app on which to organize and share. You must stand up to the governments who will undoubtedly come to you and ask you to shutdown a chatroom or block a user. Are you ready for that? Is your business model ready for that? So, don’t get defensive, and either embrace the high-risk user stories you now must adopt, or go back to the playa.

 

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