This month’s vote was a wake up call for Governments around the world, that in an age of technology, silencing the voice of democracy is easier said than done. The movement for independence in Catalonia is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the first political party to call for a split from the rest of Spain was founded back in the 1930’s, but in recent years, those calls have been growing in intensity. With a healthy majority in the Catalan parliament, nationalists acted with authority, if not authorisation, as they announced plans to hold a referendum on independence on October 1. Despite efforts to thwart the vote by the Spanish Government, Catalans went to the polls anyway in open defiance of what they perceived to be a Spanish attempt to deny them a democratic voice. Ballot papers were hidden away from the National Police and the Civil Guard, and normal citizens took to the streets around polling stations to defend ballot boxes from confiscation by the police.
Although there were several factors at play in assuring the vote went ahead, not least the courage of officials who went to great lengths to organise the event, technology played a huge part in the referendum. From social media, to peer to peer encrypted messaging applications, October 1 was a day for democracy, powered by technology.
In the days leading up to the referendum, the Catalan Government struggled to keep their official website detailing information about where and how to vote online. Citizens would rush to visit official domains only to find sites already blocked by the Spanish Government. In a game of cat and mouse, versions of the official website began to pop up at increasingly unlikely domain addresses, including guardiacivil.sexy, in a clear attempt to satirise the Spanish use of the police [The Guardia Civil] to block a democratic vote.