GitHub is censored in Spain as the government attempts to silence Catalan protestors


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It appears that Freedom of Association is a uniquely American principle, as – across the globe – in China as well as Europe, governments don't take too kindly to organized dissent, even when that organization takes place in the digital space. 

The Spanish government has quietly begun censoring GitHub repositories in response to mounting Catalan protests.

On October 14, the Spanish supreme court sentenced nine pro-independence Catalan politicians to prison sentences ranging from between nine to 13 years – for “sedition” and the roles they played in the Catalan referendum on independence back in 2017.

Following the sentencing, protests have raged through the streets of autonomous Catalonia, in retaliation.

The Catalonia independence movement seeks the independence of Catalonia from Spain and, by extension, the independence of North Catalonia from France and that of other Catalan Countries.

What is Tsunami Democràtic?

One new pro-independence group, Tsunami Democràtic, organizes digitally online and is known for the mass occupation of Barcelona’s El Prat airport by an estimated 10,000 protesters.

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The group promotes its activities on Twitter and Telegram where they have hundreds of thousands of followers. It also has a website hosted on Github as well as an encrypted communication app that's also available on Github.

The group have told citizens to download the app as it's the app that will be used for future organization of events, as well as also being used to help protestors evade police detection – something that has been essential to organization in the Hong Kong protests

The app uses geolocation and end-to-end protocols to make sure that only trusted and verified users have access. Verification takes place through the scanning of a QR code of an already-verified member. 

In the region, Android is the most common smartphone operating system. But, since the app isn't available on the Google Play store, where other Android apps are often found, the APK file containing the app needs to be downloaded and manually installed on a phone. 

The APK has been, until this point, hosted on the software development platform GitHub. 

It's for this reason that the Spanish government has begun to block GitHub in the country, cutting off access to all users. Over the last week, several Spanish internet service providers have blocked access to the service.

 

However, on Tuesday, Spain's Guardia Civilordered GitHub to cut off access in the region. Here is the notice that was sent to GitHub, translated to English:

Dear Sir or Madam,

This is the official e-mail account of the Lawful Interception Unit of the Guardia Civil—which is one of the Spanish Law Enforcement Agencies. Since 1999, our unit has been working as the Guardia Civil's Single Point of Contact with Internet Service Providers and every other Online Service Provider that uses the telecommunication network in order to provide any service. Our main task is to request them important information or any other action regarding judicial investigations carried out by our investigation teams.

In Spain, judicial authorities are responsible for the supervision and control of websites in order to prevent the dissemination of criminal content as it is specified in the article 35 of our Law 34/2002 and the article 13 of our Criminal Procedure Code.

As you may have seen in the international media, Spain is currently facing a series of riots involving serious public disorder and main infrastructure's sabotage. There is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the National High Court where the movement Tsunami Democratic has been confirmed as a criminal organization driving people to commit terrorist attacks. Tsunami Democratic's main goal is coordinating these riots and terrorist actions by using any possible mean.

Among them, they have developed an app that provides information about those riots and allows their users to communicate between themselves in order to coordinate those actions. This app has been uploaded in GitHub by the user [private] ([private]), where people that want to participate in riots can access his repository ([private]) and install different versions of this app in their devices. Moreover, other repositories with the same information have been created to prevent the content being withheld.

Concerning this situation, and in compliance with the Law, we send this e-mail with a national court warrant attached in order to request both withholding the content and data related to the aforementioned investigation. This is the same procedure that we follow with other service providers located in the United States, such as Microsoft or 

Google.

Yours faithfully,

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Cindy Harper

Cindy Harper is a tech news staff writer based in Maryland, USA. After getting her start in local journalism, Cindy now reports mostly on social media and privacy stories for Reclaim. [email protected]