It’s not just the Great Firewall of China. In countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, India, and Russia, the internet itself is censored, and in some cases, people can be arrested for exercising basic freedom of speech. Those in the know can use workarounds, like VPNs, to sneak past authorities through digital tunnels to reach an open internet. But how can all those people who don’t be reached?
Russian artist Dmitry Morozov–who once proposed a police baton that would text the officer’s own mother–recently came up with a provocative solution, featured on Prosthetic Knowledge. Called Hot Ninja, it’s a little gadget that creates a subversive Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere. Anyone looking for Wi-Fi can see its name, and if anyone chooses to connect they’ll be greeted with whatever web page Morozov chooses to transmit to them directly.
In essence, Hot Ninja is like a mini server and wireless hotspot in one. And with a built-in keyboard and a few buttons, Morozov can actively change the name of his network, or the content he’s distributing, on a whim. Hot Ninja can even host a private group chat to anyone who chooses to connect.
It’s a gadget that circumvents authorities on the local level, specifically by playing small instead of playing big. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to internet solutions proposed by Google, which would create a mesh network of balloons to provide service, or Facebook, which uses winged drones to accomplish largely the same thing.
Hot Ninja isn’t nearly as high tech, of course. And to be frank, a lot of what it does could probably be accomplished with the right code running on any laptop computer.
Still, there’s something compelling about the open source, hacker-hearted industrial design of this completely stand-alone device. With its Linux-based software, it’s not answering to a major corporation like Apple, Microsoft, or Google, either. If there were a worst case scenario where common forms of online communication were truly failing, this tiny keyboard and circuit sandwich could give a single voice the ability to silently and anonymously shout.