Monday, March 31, 2008

City Subpoenas Creator of Text Messaging Code

Now see, it wasn't necessary to bring Kwame into the mix, but I just couldn't help myself;
the idea for TXTmob evolved from conversations about how police departments were adopting strategies to counter large-scale marches that converged at a single spot.

While preparing for the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston, some demonstrators decided to plan decentralized protests in which small, mobile groups held rallies and roamed the streets.

“The idea was to create a very dynamic, fluid environment,” Mr. Hirsch said. “We wanted to transform areas around the entire city into theaters of dissent.”

Organizers wanted to enable people in different areas to spread word of what they were seeing in each spot and to coordinate their movements. Mr. Hirsch said that he wrote the TXTmob code over about two weeks. After a trial run in Boston during the Democratic National Convention, the service was in wide use during the Republican convention in New York. Hundreds of people went to the TXTmob Web site and joined user groups at no charge.

As a result, when members of the War Resisters League were arrested after starting to march up Broadway, or when Republican delegates attended a performance of “The Lion King” on West 42nd Street, a server under a desk in Cambridge, Mass., transmitted messages detailing the action, often while scenes on the streets were still unfolding.

Messages were exchanged by self-organized first-aid volunteers, demonstrators urging each other on and even by people in far-flung cities who simply wanted to trade thoughts or opinions with those on the streets of New York. Reporters began monitoring the messages too, looking for word of breaking news and rushing to spots where mass arrests were said to be taking place.

And Mr. Hirsch said he thought it likely that police officers were among those receiving TXTmob messages on their phones.

It is difficult to know for sure who received messages, but an examination of police surveillance documents prepared in 2003 and 2004, and unsealed by a federal magistrate last year, makes it clear that the authorities were aware of TXTmob at least a month before the Republican convention began.
Text is forever...,