London: In a bid to help pro-democracy
campaigners, the US government is developing a cell phone with
a `panic button` that can wipe out its address book and send
The new technology also includes a special application
that can be activated if the smart phone is confiscated by
The US wants to equip the activists with the new tools
to fight back the repressive governments and is targeting
countries ranging from the Middle East to China, a newspaper reported.
"We`ve been trying to keep below the radar on this,
because a lot of the people we are working with are operating
in very sensitive environments," Michael Posner, assistant US
secretary of state for human rights and labour, was quoted as
According to the report, the initiative is part of
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s push to expand Internet
freedoms following the pro-democracy movements in Iran, Egypt,
Tunisia and elsewhere.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have
played a key role in fuelling all those revolutions.
The protesters in Cairo`s Tahrir Square underscored
how important cellphones were to modern grassroots political
movements, said Posner.
America has budgeted some $50 million since 2008
helping social activists work around government-imposed
firewalls and on new strategies to protect their own
communications and data from government intrusion.
"We`re operating like venture capitalists, giving
small grants. We are looking for the most innovative people
who are going to tailor their technology and their expertise
to the particular community of people we`re trying to
protect," said Posner.
The US first began to publicly acknowledge Internet
technologies in 2009, when it asked Twitter to delay a planned
upgrade that would have cut service to Iranians organising
mass protests over disputed elections.
Since then it has viewed new media technologies as a
key part of its global strategy, facing off with China over
censorship of Google results and launching its own Twitter
feeds in Arabic, Farsi and Hindi.
Some US lawmakers have criticised the department for
not doing enough to promote the new technology, but Posner
said it was building momentum.
"We`re now going full speed ahead to get the money out
the door," he said.
The US has also funded the training for some 5,000
activists around the world on the new technologies, the report
First Published: Monday, March 28, 2011, 20:27