Opinion: Protesters, Stop Using Cell Phones

By Ed Dalton

It is at times shocking that so many protesters today still rely on the convenience of technology. Bourgeois news outlet New York Review Daily reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation deployed its anti-terrorist Fly Team to the streets of Portland to mine data from protesters’ cellphones during the summer of rebellion following the May Uprisings.

Other instances of Apple providing iCloud data, personal photos, locations, phone records etc. to the FBI have been no secret. In the instance of the FBI Fly Team, the goal was not only to interrogate arrested protesters, but to extract information logged in cell phones to uncover activists’ organizing networks.

It would be a mistake to believe that this only applies to organizers, or rowdy protesters who fight back against police violence. Anyone at all, no matter their attention from the law, can be labeled ‘violent’ by the very police they are standing in moral opposition to, as well as their friends who they sent text messages to, invited to a protest, etc., and be placed on government watch lists. This is a danger to everyone, not just organizers— however, organizers especially need to learn to organize with an absolute avoidance of cell phones. This might seem a bit extreme to some, but mass demonstrations have been a tradition of rebels long before telephones, let alone cell phones, were invented.

According to the FBI: “The Fly Team is a small, highly trained cadre of counterterrorism investigators—including special agents and intelligence analysts—based at FBI Headquarters who stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. The team brings the FBI’s strategic and tactical counterterrorism capabilities to bear in partnership with other U.S. government agencies and foreign partner-nation entities in critical overseas locations to detect, penetrate, and disrupt terrorist networks.”

In other words, protesters in the US demanding that Black lives matter are now being treated as “terrorists.” It is important to understand that a terrorist in the modern sense, if the logic of the FBI is followed, is usually any Middle Eastern or Arab person who opposes the imperialist plunder of their homeland and chooses to do something about it, or thinks of doing something about it. Think of a future Guantanamo Bay death camp, this time for protesters for Black lives, the next time you want to tweet, live-stream, text a friend about a protest, collaborate with your comrades to set up a study group, or post your favorite chants to Tik Tok.

Know that every block you walk, as well as other phones in the vicinity, can be evidence. Even if you are not intending to commit any crime (and especially if you are), leave the phone at home. Even leaving it in your car is a bad idea since you will be flagged in the general area.  Whatever convenience phones provide is nothing when we consider the possibilities—no, the realities—of state repression.

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