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FireChat app on Google Play Store
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NEWS

FireChat: How this smartphone app is fuelling Hong Kong protests

The app has gained recent popularity among protesters and demonstrators who have been affected by internet and mobile network bans across the world

Shoubhik Roy Choudhury

Guwahati: With all the technology in this world, there are still some limitations that you just cannot get done with. One such is mobile networks -- they just can’t work properly when more than 5,000 people gather at one specific place since the network gets jammed with too many call requests. Did you ever try calling your friends or family in the middle of a mega music event or a festival but couldn’t connect to their phone number? Then you may know exactly what we mean.

Another common scenario will be a large street demonstration or massive protest where people gather around in huge numbers, just like the one currently going on in Hong Kong and the recent ones in Assam, Meghalaya, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The Hong Kong protests are being led by hundreds and thousands of pro-democracy activists are protesting against China’s involvement in the semi-autonomous state’s 2017 chief executive elections.

These protests have compelled the authorities to block mobile networks making it much harder for protesters to organise mass demonstrations. Fortunately, the smartphone app FireChat solves this problem of connectivity during mobile networks blockade. On December 15 alone, over one lakh accounts on FireChat were created from Hong Kong.

This clever app manages to connect to other smartphones without WiFi or mobile networks allowing users to message each other and bypass the existing traditional means of connectivity. The app takes away the powers of the government who try to block mobile networks and internet connectivity and instead empowers those on the ground. However, the smartphone app is not fully secured or protected from government surveillance and the authorities can still track outgoing and incoming messages to and from the app. FireChat has gained popularity in the recent years in countries like Taiwan, Iraq, Iran and empowered the people who were the victims of internet and mobile network shutdowns by the government.