Microsoft-owned Github has removed the APK of an app for organizing political protests in the autonomous community of Catalonia — acting on a takedown request from Spain’s military police (aka the Guardia Civil).
As we reported earlier this month supporters of independence for Catalonia have regrouped under a new banner — calling itself Tsunami Democràtic — with the aim of rebooting the political movement and campaigning for self-determination by mobilizing street protests and peaceful civil disobedience.
The group has also been developing bespoke technology tools to coordinate protest action. It’s one of these tools, the Tsunami Democràtic app, which was being hosted as an APK on Github and has now been taken down.
The app registers supporters of independence by asking them to communicate their availability and resources for taking part in local protest actions across Catalonia. Users are also asked to register for protest actions and check-in when they get there — at which point the app asks them to abide by a promise of non-violence (see point 3 in this sample screengrab):
Users of the app see only upcoming protests relevant to their location and availability — making it different to the one-to-many broadcasts that Tsunami Democràtic also puts out via its channel on the Telegram messaging app.
Essentially, it’s a decentalized tool for mobilizing smaller, localized protest actions vs the largest demos which continue to be organized via Telegram broadcasts (such as a mass blockade of Barcelona airport, earlier this month).
A source with knowledge of Tsunami Democràtic previously told us the sorts of protests intended to be coordinated via the app could include actions such as go-slows to disrupt traffic on local roads and fake shopping sprees in supermarkets, with protestors abandoning carts filled with products in the store.
In a section of Github’s site detailing government takedowns the request from the Spanish state to remove the Tsunami Democràtic app sits alongside folders containing historical takedown requests from China and Russia.
“There is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the National High Court where the movement Tsunami Democràtic has been confirmed as a criminal organization driving people to commit terrorist attacks. Tsunami Democràtic’s main goal is coordinating these riots and terrorist actions by using any possible mean,” Spain’s military police write in the letter sent to Github.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on Github’s decision to remove the app APK.
In a note about government takedowns on Github’s website it writes:
From time to time, GitHub receives requests from governments to remove content that has been declared unlawful in their local jurisdiction. Although we may not always agree with those laws, we may need to block content if we receive a valid request from a government official so that our users in that jurisdiction may continue to have access to GitHub to collaborate and build software.
“GitHub does not endorse or adopt any assertion contained in the following notices,” it adds in a further caveat on the page.
The trigger for the latest wave of street demonstrations in Catalonia were lengthy jail sentences handed down to a number of Catalan political and cultural leaders by Spain’s Supreme Court earlier this month.
These were people involved in organizing an illegal independence referendum two years ago. The majority of these Catalan leaders were convicted for sedition. None were found guilty of the more serious charge of rebellion — but sentences ran as long as 13 years nonetheless.
This month Spanish judges also reissued a European arrest warrant seeking to extradite the former leader of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, from Brussels to Spain to face trial. Last year a court in Germany refused his extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion or sedition — only allowing it on lesser grounds of misuse of public funds. A charge which Spain did not pursue.
Puigdemont fled Catalonia in the wake of the failed 2017 independence bid and has remained living in exile in Brussels. He has also since been elected as an MEP but has been unable to take up his seat in the EU parliament after the Spanish state moved to block him from being recognized as a parliamentarian.
Shortly after the latest wave of pro-independence demonstrations took off in Catalonia the Tsunami Democràtic movement’s website was taken offline — also as a result of a takedown request by the Spanish state.
The website remains offline at the time of writing.
While the Tsunami Democràtic app could be accused of encouraging disruption, the charge of “terrorism” is clearly overblown. Unless your definition of terrorism extends to harnessing the power of peaceful civil resistance to generate momentum for political change.
And while there has been unrest on the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns and cities this month, with fires being lit and projectiles thrown at police, there are conflicting reports about what has triggered these clashes between police and protestors — including criticism of the police response as overly aggressive vs what has been, in the main, large but peaceful crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators.
The police response on the day of the 2017 referendum was also widely condemned as violently disproportionate, with scenes of riot gear clad police officers beating up people as they tried to cast a vote.
Local press in Catalonia has reported the European Commission response to Spain’s takedown of the Tsunami Democràtic website — saying the pan-EU body said Spain has a responsibility to find “the right balance between guaranteeing freedom of expression and upholding public order and ensuring security, as well as protecting [citizens] from illegal content”.
Asked what impact the Github takedown of the Tsunami Democràtic app’s APK will have on the app, a source with knowledge of the movement suggested very little — pointing out that the APK is now being hosted on Telegram.
Similarly, the content that was available on the movement’s website is being posted to its 380,000+ subscribers on Telegram — a messaging platform that’s itself been targeted for blocks by authoritarian states in various locations around the world. (Though not, so far, in Spain.)
Another protest support tool that’s been in the works in Catalonia — a live-map for crowdsourcing information about street protests which looks similar to the HKlive.maps app used by pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong — is still in testing but expected to launch soon, per the source.
Omate O6L Pro smartwatch for kids packs software SIM and 4G LTE
Omate is back with another Nanoblocks smartwatch for kids, this one featuring 4G LTE connectivity and a software SIM. The new O6L Pro model is visually similar to the 3G version of the Omate x Nanoblocks smartwatch the company introduced back in 2018, but with updated tech that powers a number of features, including video calls, messaging, and more.
The Omate O6L Pro smartwatch features a 1.3-inch capacitive touch display, as well as a speaker, physical SOS button for emergencies, a built-in noise cancellation microphone, and a 2-megapixel camera for capturing selfies and participating in video calls.
The key feature included with the O6L Pro is the software SIM, making it the first kids’ smartwatch to offer this feature. Buyers get free unlimited 4G LTE services with the watch during its first three years, as well as free unlimited location services that power the SOS and tracking features.
As you’d expect from a wearable made for kids, the device has an IP67 rating. The O6L Pro is available in purple and black colors, plus there’s a limited edition version that features a nanoblocks band. With that latter offering, kids can place tiny plastic bricks on the watch’s band for a fun look.
Multiple purchasing options are available; the O6L Pro Black and Purple are both priced at $239 USD. Alternatively, you can get a ‘twin’ pack with two watches for $429 USD. The nanoblocks version of the watches are $10 more expensive at $249 USD each.
Twitter Super Follow borrows OnlyFans strategy to charge for tweets
Twitter is preparing to launch paid tweets, with a new Super Follow system which will work a little like Patreon or OnlyFans. Announced during the company’s investors presentation, Super Follow will offer a new way for those with followings on Twitter to monetize that audience, with everything from exclusive content to special badging.
Twitter has long talked about – and, according to rumors and leaks, been working on internally – a way to squeeze more profit out of its service than through advertising alone. One of the most common expectations has been a monthly or annual subscription, which would remove ads from users’ timelines, among other potential perks.
This Twitter Super Follow system, however, takes a different approach. In effect, it would allow users of the service to individually monetize their own shared content, much in the way that services like Patreon and OnlyFans do today. Exactly what could be offered seems to be down to the individual user’s preferences.
In an example shared by Twitter, for instance, that could be anything from a badge showing that you’re a supporter of a certain tweeter, or subscriber-only newsletters. It might include exclusive content that wouldn’t be available to non-Super Followers, or deals & discounts for certain products and services.
Individual tweets shared with Super Followers would only support viewing and replying by those subscribers, according to screenshots posted by The Verge.
Finally, there’s also “Community access,” a reference to another new feature that was revealed today. Twitter Communities are effectively closed groups, built around individual topics: that could be gardening, exercise, or even hashtags such as #SocialJustice, Twitter suggested. Communities could seemingly be open to any Twitter user wanting to join, or closed and require invitation – potentially after signing up as a Super Follower first – to take part.
Twitter is presumably envisaging following the strategy of other sites, and taking a cut of Super Follow fees. Exactly how much it’ll cost will seemingly depending on the individual creator: Twitter’s example is $4.99 per month with the ability to cancel at any time. However it’s likely that users would be able to set their own amount based on what they believe their community will pay.
There’s no indication as to when the new features will launch.
Framework Laptop promises easy upgrades and modular ports
A new laptop startup aims to make a DIY, upgrade-friendly notebook, with Framework hoping to build a market from those frustrated by today’s breed of sealed-up computers. Combining readily-accessed internal components with modular, interchangeable expansion cards, the Framework Laptop may look like a regular 13.5-inch notebook but it’s very different inside and out.
“At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last,” Nirav Patel, company founder, says of the startup. “Founded in San Francisco in 2019, our mission is to empower you with great products you can easily customize, upgrade, and repair, increasing longevity and reducing e-waste in the process.”
The company’s first product marks a return to some of the traditional approaches to notebooks, blended with some newer ideas. The Framework Laptop has a 13.5-inch 3:2 aspect screen running at 2256 x 1502 resolution, a milled aluminum housing that’s 15.85mm thick and 2.87 pounds, and runs 11th Gen Intel Core processors.
It’ll support up to 64GB of DDR memory and 4TB+ of Gen4 NVMe solid-state storage. There’s also a 1080p/60fps webcam with a hardware privacy switch, a 55 Wh battery, and a keyboard with 1.5mm travel. However it’s how those components are pieced together that stands out.
The storage, WiFi card, and two of the memory slots are socketed, so that they can be upgraded by an individual user. The mainboard itself is designed to be swapped out too, as processors improve. The battery, screen, keyboard, and even the magnetically-attached bezel are designed to be readily replaced. Framework will even have QR codes on each component which, when scanned, will link to replacement guides and product listings.
Meanwhile, for connectivity there’ll be four swappable bays for Framework’s Expansion Card system. It’ll have a choice of USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, and MicroSD port modules that can be slotted in, as well as less common options like extra storage or even a high-end headphone amp. The company plans to open up the design for that, too, so that other companies can make compatible modules.
It’s fair to say that Framework faces an uphill battle. Modular devices haven’t exactly had an easy go of things in the past, with even big names in the tech world giving up on their plans. Google’s Ara modular phone, for example, was meant to be as easily-upgraded as a set of LEGO bricks: instead, Google canned the project.
Intel, meanwhile, had plans for a modular laptop design. Its Compute Card would effectively condense the key components into a single block, which could be slotted into a notebook casing. It shelved that idea back in 2019.
The fact that the computing segment has been so aggressively commercialized explains part of the challenge. Low-price notebooks have relied on manufacturer scale to squeeze supplier costs down to the bare minimum; meanwhile, sleeker ultraportables and performance laptops demand custom designs in order to satisfy user requirements for both power and portability. That has led to little to no support for user-upgradable parts like memory or storage, since RAM chips and flash drives are soldered in place to save on thickness.
Framework’s approach differs dramatically from that. In fact, as well as prebuilt models running Windows 10 Home or Pro, it’ll also have a Framework Laptop DIY Edition. That will come as the individual components, and the choice to load either Windows or Linux if you’d prefer.
The Framework Laptop itself uses 50-percent post consumer recycled (PCR) aluminum, and an average of 30-percent PCR plastic.
What we don’t know – and what a lot of this will hinge upon – is pricing. Exact specifications, costs, and preorder details will follow closer to Framework’s summer 2021 estimate for the laptop shipping, the company promises. It’s difficult to imagine that there won’t be some premium to pay for this degree of flexibility, never mind the fact that smaller laptop-makers typically end up paying more for components than their industry heavyweight rivals.
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