Swipe right for revolution: Why Hong Kong protesters are using Tinder and Pokémon Go
Protesters are turning to Tinder, Pokémon Go and Apple’s AirDrop to spread messages
You might get more than you bargained for when swiping through Tinder in Hong Kong. As the city rolls into its third month of unrest, some are using the popular dating app not to invite people on dates, but out into the streets.
Posting information about protests on Tinder is just one of several creative ways Hongkongers are using technology to mobilize people. For more than eight weeks now, technology has been at the center of organizing demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill.
People primarily communicated through Telegram groups and streamed their actions on gaming platform Twitch. As violence has escalated in recent weeks, though, police have been cracking down harder. So now protesters are resorting to more unorthodox methods of organizing and communicating online.
One of those methods, besides Tinder, is Pokémon Go.
When the Hong Kong police denied protesters permission to march in one of the city’s suburban neighborhoods on safety grounds, the protesters decided to say that they weren’t going for a march -- they were just showing up for a game of Pokémon Go.
The march in Yuen Long on July 27 was held in response to violent attacks on protesters a week earlier from more than 100 white-clad assailants, with some of those arrested having links to triad gangs. This protest ended like many others -- not with Pokémon, but with violence, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Another way protesters spread their message is through Apple’s AirDrop.
In the olden days, people would actually walk in the streets and distribute leaflets communicating their political causes. These days, the political messages have moved to the cloud, with images sent directly to recipients’ phones unsolicited. On Hong Kong subways, people have been receiving posters inviting them to protest through the service that allows Apple devices to send files to each other. The latest call to action involved a general strike that was held on Monday.
The tool has also been used to communicate with tourists from the mainland. China’s Great Firewall has largely limited reports on the Hong Kong protests to ones in line with government views. This includes information found on social media such as Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.
Since AirDrop is peer-to-peer, though, protesters were able to send information directly to mainland tourists traveling to Hong Kong.
Not all forms of protest communication are so inventive, though. Much of the hard work organizing protests has been done on more traditional online forums such as LIHKG, dubbed the Hong Kong Reddit, as well as online chat groups.