Every day, multitudes of messages by demonstrators against Belarus’s authoritarian leader appear on the popular chat app Telegram. They set goals, save time and space for gatherings with trade-like precision, and offer incentives.
Today will be an important day in our struggle for freedom. A tectonic shift is taking place on all fronts,
so it is important to slow it down, “A message from one of the Telegram channels is read on Tuesday.”
Morning to extend the strike at 11:00. Kopala (theater) supports 19:00. Gather at Independence Chowk.”
Telegram has been an indispensable tool in coordinating the unprecedented large-scale protests in Belarus since August 9,
when election officials announced that President Alexander Lukashenko had extended his rule by 26 years
in a vote that was deemed fraudulent.
The police welcomed the peaceful protesters who took to the streets in the capital Minsk and other cities with sound bombs,
rubber bullets and beatings. Opposition candidates are leaving for Lithuania – under pressure,
his campaign says – and the authorities have shut down the internet, leaving Belarus with virtually no access to independent online news outlets or social media, and the protesters appearing to be leaderless.
Telegram is the only available apps even if the internet is down, and the app increasing the level of security for messages shared on apps and used in other protests. It had many channels that helped the scattered parade develop into well-coordinated action.
The people who run the channel, which used to provide political news, now posting updates, videos and photos of the mess sent from users, heavy police presence, contacts with human rights activists, and live calls of new demonstrations – some Belarusian opposition leaders have publicly avoided doing so. Tens of thousands of people across the country responded to the call.
“The country’s fate has never depended on a single (piece) of technology,” said Viacorca.
In the days following the vote and the upcoming internet blackout, NEXTA Live’s viewership has grown from a few million to over 2 million followers. Sister channel NEXTA has more than 700,000 followers. The Belarusian brain tracker has grown from about 170,000 users at the end of June to over 470,000 this week.
In a country of 9.5 million people, it is difficult to lose influence, and officials are watching and chasing those behind the canal.
Last week, authorities opened a criminal investigation into Nexa and its founder, 22-year-old blogger Stephen Botelho, for inciting mass riots – he sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Blogger Igor Lasik, the founder of the Belarusian company Brin, arrested before the election, but his channel is still working.
Botelho did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When protests start, NEXTA is often the first place anywhere on the Internet to upload terrifying police photos with protesters. Protesters in the streets echoed his feelings.