During the 2004 Republican National Convention held in New York prior to the presidential elections, activists employed large scale SMS text messaging as a means of immediate information. It informed demonstrators about the moves of police forces, and it alerted independent journalists of where cameras were needed to document protests, legal observers of real-time rights violations and activist medic teams of where people were in need of medical attention.
But if anyone can utilize services such as SMS and webinfo, wouldn’t that mean that law enforcement could use it against the demonstrators or to shut down direct actions preemptively? In fact, the New York Police Department turned out to be one of the most fervent users of the Indymedia website, relying heavily on its updates on the protests. Information which was called in by demonstrators to a Indymedia message service and dispatched on the web was used by the NYPD to inform police units working on mopeds, motorcycles and bikes. At one time, a journalist spotted an entire scooter squad wrapped around an internet phone booth reading INDYMEDIA. “The big question in my mind is whether our breaking news reporting is more useful for us or for the police,” said independant journalist Josh Breitbart.
The New York Model:
Indymedia and the Text Message Jihad
by Jeremy Scahill