Indian Protesters Turn to Bridgefy to Defy an Internet Shutdown

The Bridgefy App in Real Life 05/13/2021

Featured image credit: Ankur Jyoti Dewri (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license).

On December 12, 2019, the Government of India enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Under this law, some persecuted religious minorities from neighboring countries would become Indian citizens. While some criticized the CAA as discriminating on the basis of religion, particularly for excluding Muslims, others did not want refugees to be granted Indian citizenship.

Protests sparked in many areas of the country, and the government cracked down on them immediately. It forced an Internet shutdown in several regions on December 19, and limited traditional online services as well as popular messaging apps, so protesters quickly adopted Bridgefy.

Instead of relying on the Internet, Bridgefy uses a smartphone’s Bluetooth antenna to send messages within 330 feet, or 100 meters. However, every phone acts as a link in an ever increasing chain of devices, known as a mesh-network. This allows the Bridgefy App to cover large areas by letting messages “hop” through other users’ phones until they reach the intended destination. This way, protesters can stay connected without having a need to be online, effectively finding a way around an Internet shutdown.

Social media and some media outlets went abuzz with the good news, either inviting other people to join the trend or reporting on it. This resulted in Bridgefy App downloads in India skyrocketing by 200%, and accounting for 51% of all worldwide downloads we received during December 2019. By the end of that month, India became one of our top performing countries, since 33% of all Bridefy App downloads occurred there.

Bridgefy App downloads worldwide and in India, from December 1 to 31, 2019. Graphic made with internal records.

The final outcome of the movement against the CAA still remains to be seen. All protests were forced to stop due to lockdowns imposed to stop the new COVID-19 pandemic. However, this experience stands as another real-life example of the many situations in which Bridgefy can help people stay connected when they don’t have access to the Internet.

Mint. Bridgefy: An offline messaging app suddenly gaining traction in India.
The Indian Express. Internet shutdown in Delhi: Bridgefy is a messaging app doesn’t need Internet.
Wikipedia. Citizenship Amendment Act protests.