The Tsunami Democràtic app embodies the "be water" motto of the Hong Kong uprising and builds on the Sukey anti-kettling app from the UK's 2011 student protests: it can only be activated by scanning a QR code from an existing member, and once it is activated, it places you in a "cell" with nearby users and shows you actions taking place nearby — measures designed to both coordinate protests and to limit the exposure when the police get ahold of the app.
The app is a sideloaded Android app and there's no Ios version, meaning that there's no way for either Google or Apple to remove the app from their stores under pressure from Madrid (Apple bans sideloading apps so it's Android-only).
The app was first made available on Oct 14 and in-app messages have promised its first major use tomorrow, on Oct 21. The app's had more than 270,000 downloads.
The app is a fork of an existing tool, Retroshare, and some of its source has been published for inspection. No one is sure whether the fork was created by a team of programmers or a dedicated individual, and without a full code audit, it's impossible to say whether it is either maliciously or accidentally exposing its users.
This is essentially a reworking of the revolutionary tactical doctrine set out by Heinlein in his 1966 science fiction novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which also served as the inspiration for Ian McDonald's incredible Luna trilogy).
But another theory is also gaining ground. "I think it's a change of strategy of the main groups, which were involved in the first of our referendum two years ago," says Luján. He believes that Tsunami Democràtic is a proxy group for the larger separatist organisations, and former members of the former Catalan government, currently residing in Brussels after fleeing the country in 2017.
Some Catalan politicians – including president of the Generalitat, Quim Torra; its vice president, Pere Aragonès, and the president of the Parliament, Roger Torrent – have publicly supported the group on social media. Tsunami Democràtic denies any link.
Spain's interior ministry has expressed the desire to discover who is behind the group and the app, but this will likely be difficult – given it could be set up and run from anywhere in the world.
Catalonia has created a new kind of online activism. Everyone should pay attention [Laurie Clarke/Wired UK]