Software development platform Github has removed an APK associated with Catalan’s independence group Tsunami Democràtic following a takedown order from Spain’s military agency Guardia Civil.
Tsunami Democràtic, which was established in the lead up to the final judgement on a trial of nine Catalan separatist leaders, developed a decentralized app in order for members to communicate and organize small, localized groups of supporters to carry out demonstrations and actions.
The app aims to keep the authorities out of the loop by supposedly approximating and obfuscating users’ locations and requiring users to activate the app using QR codes. Users are only permitted to invite one person to the app and even then activated users can only see protests within their immediate vicinity.
The app isn’t yet available on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, but was uploaded to Github, which is owned by Microsoft, so that Android users could sideload it onto their phones.
Tsunami Democràtic members also make use of encrypted messaging service Telegram, which is available for both Android and iOS on the official app stores.
The Lawful Interception Unit of the Guardia Civil, which is the Spanish police’s “Single Point of Contact with Internet Service Providers,” ordered the takedown in an official email to Github, published on the ‘gov-takedowns’ web page on 23 October 2019.
The email says that there is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the National High Court where the movement has been confirmed a “criminal organization driving people to commit terrorist attacks.”
“Concerning this situation, and in compliance with the Law, we send this email with a national court warrant attached in order to request both withholding the content and data related to the aforementioned investigation,” concluded the letter.
This comes after a Spanish judge ordered the closure of the group’s website on 18 October. Once blocked, Tsunami Democràtic moved its homepage to a new address.
Independent data scientist Joe Brew told the BBC that the app ban was likely to be ineffective.
“Trying to ban these types of things is like a game of cat-and-mouse. The moment you succeed with a ban in one place, it pops up in ten other places.”
Among the other takedown orders on the Github website are letters from the Cyber Security Department of the Military of Public Security of China and Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).
Github’s website says that while it “might not always agree” with the country’s laws it “may need to block content” if it receives a valid request from a government official. This is so that users in that country can continue to have access to the website in order to collaborate and build software.