Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that the internet isn’t what it used to be these days. Social media platforms that used to provide for the free exchange of information and the means of organizing resistance, have anointed themselves arbiters of truth, on a mission to protect our fragile minds from any ideas and opinions that they happen to disagree with. Controversial posts are now ‘fact checked’, restricted or flat out removed. Those who dare speak outside the lines are subject to temporary or permanent banishment.
Unfortunately this trend isn’t likely to reverse any time soon. In fact it’s going to get worse. Calling them out or petitioning for change isn’t going to work. These people feel validated and justified. And they are supported by a highly vocal contingent of the population that believes that dangerous ideas should be silenced, and that heretics should not be allowed any platform whatsoever to speak their minds. As such it is imperative that we develop new strategies for exchanging ideas and organizing that do not depend on their technology.
In this video I’m going to describe a media strategy to bypass Facebook, Twitter and Youtube that makes use of Telegram, however the same principles can be applied to other apps.
Telegram is an encrypted messaging app which ties to a cellphone number much like Whatsapp. However it has much more features than Whatsapp, including channels and multi-level admin controls for groups. It also has a desktop version for Mac and Windows that make it much easier to work with.
Working with Telegram as a tool for activism is very different than old school social media because you don’t have direct access to open pools of users that can find you in a search. However the fact that Telegram distributes all messages directly to your channel subscribers or group members without censorship and without limiting distribution algorithmically, makes the potential reach of this platform much more significant.
Telegram also has secret chats which provide a means of communication for activists that intelligence agencies cannot monitor. Given the level of access that social media companies grant to the NSA and other entities this extremely important. And if you think this is a conspiracy theory, you might want to look into the Edward Snowden revelations.
Once you have Telegram installed, setting up channels and groups is easy. Click the pen icon in the top right corner and choose new group or new channel. When you create a new channel or group you will be given the chance to set it as public or private and choose a custom URL. It’s also worth noting that you can create a custom username for your account so that people can contact you without knowing your phone number.
Once you’ve created a channel you’ll want to enable comments by connecting a discussion group. This is done by double clicking the channel name and scrolling down to the discussion link. Follow the instructions and a group will be created that allows your followers to comment on posts in the channel and have conversations among themselves.
Both Telegram groups and channels provide the ability to pin multiple posts. This can be used for setting discussion rules or to list links to resources.
In addition to text messages you can post photos, videos, or polls by clicking the paperclip icon to the left of the text field. All of these media types can be embedded into web pages to share with a wider public.
Now you can get your groups and channels jumpstarted by sending invite links to your contacts, or sharing them online. These links can also be converted to QR codes which can then be printed onto posters, business cards or stickers. You can also create location based groups in the phone version of the app by clicking contacts, find people nearby, then create local group. This will make your group visible to anyone who has location services enabled in the area.
So imagine you are trying to organize resistance to a government policy and Facebook and Twitter have made it clear that speaking out against this policy will not be tolerated on their platforms. Rather than trying sneak past them (which is not likely to work), you create Telegram channel. In that channel you pin your manifesto or information about your event to the top and send an invite link to your contacts. You also make a post to your normal social media profiles sending people to the channel. Next you make posters, business cards and stickers with your message plus a QR code. You also post pdfs for these print outs into the channel, and encourage your subscribers to distribute them.
You then create a network of local and regional groups moderated by people you trust. This enables people to organize their own events in their respective towns.
Rinse and repeat and your movement will grow. Social media companies won’t be able to stop you. In fact they won’t even have information about your activities. They will be completely out of the loop. And that’s a good thing, because it also cuts government surveillance out of the loop.
Now the StormCloudsGathering channel has survived the social media purge so far because we’ve been very careful not to cross certain lines. There are certain things we cannot talk about here, or we’ll be taken down. However in in this next phase some of these lines need to be crossed, and we’ll be crossing them on Telegram. We’re going to be posting content there which will not be available on our other platforms. In fact if you join the @StormCloudsGathering channel on Telegram today you’ll find a new video that will never, ever, be posted on Youtube or Facebook.
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