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Protesters sharing tech tips to stay safe, avoid arrest amid U.S. unrest

Disable touch and face ID. Find a VPN. Turn off your location services, or better yet, leave your phone at home. Blur any faces before posting photos to any network.

Atlanta Protest Held In Response To Police Custody Death Of Minneapolis Man George Floyd
People use their phones to record the police during a protest. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

This was some of the advice shared across social media over the weekend as thousands of people took to the streets to protest with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Demonstrations swept across the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police on May 25. Protesters have called for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

While most of the protests have been peaceful, many demonstrations in larger cities have been met with riot police and tear gas. Over the past several days, some protests descended into mayhem, with vandalism, looting, and arson reported in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C.

Amid the unrest, protesters and activists have been sharing advice on how to treat injuries, avoid police detection, and stay safe during the demonstrations.

Across Twitter and Instagram, activists warned that police can track data they can find online to identify demonstrators.

“Be careful what you post,” wrote Claire White, a popular lawyer on Instagram. “Don’t post pictures of people who can be identified.” The National Lawyers Guild tweeted out a basic guide for what to do if arrested:

???? KNOW. ????????YOUR. ???????? RIGHTS! ????????

Especially if you're in the streets. Download our #KnowYourRights guides in 5 languages at https://t.co/aWfwSzefmr.

— National Lawyers Guild (@NLGnews) May 29, 2020

The popularity of police scanner apps has also soared. The 5-0 Radio Police Scanner and its Pro counterpart are among the most popular apps on the App Store, according to Apple’s App Store rankings, even outpacing downloads of TikTok, Zoom, and Twitter. Citizen, a safety app that crowdsources local reports from users, was the fifth most popular app as of Monday morning.

Media figures and influencers have also shared tips for protesters.

Skin care and beauty influencer Hyram posted tips to treat the effects of tear gas and mace on his TikTok account. Dave Anthony, one of the co-hosts of the popular podcast The Dollop, has been voicing support for the protesters and warned aabout police using “stingray” technology to track cell phone data.

General tips about what apps to use and how to remove faces from photographs that are being posted were also popular, including how to scrub the metadata from photos to keep them from being used to track where the poster or the people in the photos were.

• SCREENSHOT THE PHOTOS YOU’RE GOING TO POST AND POST THE SCREENSHOT INSTEAD. THIS GETS RID OF THE METADATA THAT LISTS YOUR COORDINATES. POLICE CAN USE THAT TO PLACE YOU AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME. ALSO, BEST TO POST TO ACCOUNTS THAT CAN’T BE LINKED TO YOU/USE A VPN TO POST.

4/

— pedrito (@peteyferrer) May 31, 2020

Another podcast, “The Movements,” which covers the history of left-wing movements, set up a Zoom call for Monday evening to teach practical first aid skills, including how to control curbside bleeding and where to seek emergency assistance.

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Maya Shwayder
I'm a multimedia journalist currently based in New England. I previously worked for DW News/Deutsche Welle as an anchor and…
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