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Is Some Autocratic Regime Blocking Your Twitter? FireTweet Will Let You In

Want to help dissidents in repressed nations? Give the gift of your Internet connection and help someone in China tweet away.

Is Some Autocratic Regime Blocking Your Twitter? FireTweet Will Let You In
[Top Photo: Flickr user Tamaki Sono]

Many countries around the world with repressive governments block access to websites they consider “dangerous” to their national interests. Perhaps no other type of website has proved more dangerous to these governments than social media, especially Twitter. Countries like China and Iran more or less block Twitter in perpetuity, while others such as Egypt and Turkey have a history of blocking access during periods of civil unrest. (Whereas in the U.S., we let everyone freely access whatever content they want–we just monitor their every click.)

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FireTweet is a straightforward Android app that gets around this problem. A user in a country where Twitter is blocked downloads the app, logs into their Twitter account, and can tweet freely. It almost sounds too easy to be true. But that’s because there’s a lot going on in the background to make it possible.

FireTweet is powered by Lantern, which is a peer-to-peer network that unblocks the Internet around the world. It was built by Adam Fisk, the lead developer of LimeWire, one of the go-to apps for file sharing in the mid-2000s. Internet users in blocked countries often rely on commercial proxies to get out to the open web, but after a while those proxies themselves get blocked. Fisk realized that the same peer-to-peer architecture used to connect people sharing files could also be used to open up Internet connections around the world.

So if you live in a country with unrestricted access to the Internet and want to help people get access to Twitter and the open web, download and run Lantern. And if you’re in a country where Twitter is currently blocked, download FireTweet and tweet freely thanks to someone somewhere else in the world opening up their Internet connection to you.

About the author

Jay is a freelance journalist, formerly a staff writer for Fast Company. He writes about technology, inequality, and the Middle East.

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