Amnesty International Creates ‘Panic Button’ For Activists In Trouble
The organization launches an app that lets people at risk quickly connect with help.
Mobile devices and social media have become instrumental in the fight against human rights abuse, mostly by making documenting and reporting violations nearly instant and easy to record from anywhere. However, smartphones and Twitter can’t stop a rubber bullet or a can of tear gas. Because activists are always at risk of being attacked, arrested or seized, they need a way to signal for help quickly and effectively.
Amnesty International has recently launched a new app called Panic Button, an Android app designed to turn a person’s mobile phone into a discreet alert system that can get them help quickly in case of emergency.
The Panic Button app allows the user to send out a pre-written message along with their GPS coordinates to a set of contacts from the user’s network by rapidly pressing the power button. The app is meant to alert the user’s fellow activists so they can get help faster.
In a news release, Tanya O’Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International, said,
The aim of the Panic Button is to increase protection for activists around the world who face the ever present threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture.
We have long known that the first hours after somebody’s arrest are the crucial window of opportunity for a network to make a difference to their colleague’s release—whether it be flooding the police station with calls, arranging a protest, or mobilizing lawyers and organizations like Amnesty International for a campaign of international pressure.
By introducing technology to the fight for human rights, this app updates the power of writing a letter for the 21st century.
Panic Button was the result of an open design process back in 2012. Activists, volunteer programmers, designers, and security experts have since then contributed their time, effort, and feedback to develop the app.
The app was subjected to three months of private beta testing with hundreds of users from Amnesty International’s networks in over 17 countries. Beta testers have claimed that the app “can make a positive difference in mitigating the daily risk of their day-to-day work.”
The Panic Button app is a project by Amnesty International in collaboration with other organizations and partners such as the Frontline Defenders, iilab, and the engine room. The app has recently been released in Brazil, Sudan and the Philippines.