Some notes on the technology front in Catalonia’s independence uprising

It’s difficult to not get caught up with what’s happening in Catalonia, and you don’t need to have a strong opinion on whether independence is a good idea or not.

Independence isn’t legally allowed to be voted on. Say what you will about the Scottish referendum, I’m I’m happy it’s still part of UK and I understand the point of view of the independence movement. But what’s more important is that all parts of the country retain the right to leave. Likewise, the Brexit decision was idiotic, but the EU’s response proved that UK was never actually without its “sovereignty”. Perhaps Scotland will get another go at it. It isn’t democracy when you can’t test the consent of the governed. If Scotland does choose to leave, and Westminster develops a different take on things, the SNP could learn a few things from Catalonia.

Remember, the anti-fascists were breaking the law, too.

Here are some elements from the technical aspects of the struggle in Catalonia…

The Ooni Project was able to confirm at least 25 referendum websites being taken down or attacked by the government. In all, the national police (without the support of Catalonia regional police) seized and shut down about 140 pro-independence websites. The government also sent agents to raid various technology companies, to seize records and close websites, and tried (and failed) to sue Google into removing an app on where to vote.

On the resistance’s side, the Xnet blog has a very comprehensive breakdown on the use of anti-censorship methods used by Catalan activists and the local regional government, and how having to adopt these tools changed the course of tactics amongst pro-independence groups. Catalonia’s revolutionaries seem more tech savvy than their more well-resourced anti-independence adversaries in government. Most interestingly, is how the movement used the peer-to-peer digital hosting system IPFS to thwart website blocking and keep content available.

Say what you will about politicians and technology, while UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she doesn’t need to know how encryption works to want to ban it, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia was tweeting to his constituents about how to use a proxies.

The other territory the independence movement basically held and won on 1 October was social media, with a barrage of photos showing national police attacking the elderly, firefighters defending voters, and frightening small children.

With all of this going on, the world mostly ignored that Iraqi Kurds pulled off an entirely peaceful independence referendum vote of their own.