Using Technology To Avoid The Morality Police

As with every other government on the planet, Iran has a body of law enforcers whose primary job is to exploit wealth from the general populace. Just as in the United States, many of the law in Iran are based around morality. For example, if your manner of dress is deemed inappropriate the law enforcers have an excuse to expropriate wealth from you. The natural tendency of an exploited people is to find a way to avoid as much exploitation as possible. To that end a group of Iranian developers have created an app to help their fellows avoid the morality police:

Ershad’s mobile checkpoints which usually consist of a van, a few bearded men and one or two women in black chadors, are deployed in towns across Iran and appear with no notice.

Ershad personnel have a very extensive list of powers ranging from issuing warnings and forcing those they accuse of violating Iran’s Islamic code of conduct, to make a written statement pledging to never do so again, to fines or even prosecuting offenders.

The new phone app which is called “Gershad” (probably meaning get around Ershad instead of facing them) however, will alert users to checkpoints and help them to avoid them by choosing a different route.

The data for the app is crowdsourced. It relies on users to point out the location of the Ershad vans on maps and when a sufficient number of users point out the same point, an alert will show up on the map for other users. When the number decreases, the alert will fade gradually from the map.

Gershad sounds a lot like Waze, which is a traffic app that lets you report, amongst other things, police. Both are amongst the family of applications that allow the people to fight back against the State. Through crowdsourcing the much larger population of exploited individuals can enjoy a major information advantage over the State. As they used to say at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe, knowing is half the batter.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing the State, because of its sheer power, is an undefeatable foe. In reality the State is greatly disadvantages by the fact it is massively outnumbered. Being a bureaucracy it is also much slower to adapt to changes than the general population. Those two facts combined means the State will always lose in the long run. By the time the Ershad adapt to this application a countermeasure to its adaptions will almost certainly already be in place.