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Freenet

Browse web­sites, post on fo­rums, and pub­lish files within Freenet with strong pri­vacy pro­tec­tions.

Build your own de­cen­tral­ized ap­pli­ca­tion on the Freenet plat­form

Freenet is home to sites rang­ing from pro­gram­ming to sus­tain­able liv­ing

Create yours so no­body knows who you are

Browse web­sites, post on fo­rums, and pub­lish files within Freenet with strong pri­vacy pro­tec­tions.

Create yours so no­body knows who you are

Freenet 0.7.5 build 1491, co­de­name platform sup­port”, is now avail­able. Download Freenet This build is a bug­fix re­lease that im­proves op­er­a­tion on dif­fer­ent plat­forms and with dif­fer­ent lo­cal setup. It ships cleanups to the pitch black de­fense and to…

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Freenet 0.7.5 build 1490 co­de­name pitch black stream­ing” is now avail­able. Download Freenet Freenet 0.7.5 build 1490 is now avail­able. This re­lease pro­vides three dif­fer­ent changes: stream­ing in the browser,mit­i­gat­ing the pitch black at­tack,…

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Freenet 0.7.5 build 1489 co­de­name solstice” is now avail­able. Download Freenet This re­lease adds an m3u-fil­ter that en­ables safe ac­cess to m3u-playlists. Together with the ex­ist­ing sup­port for me­dia files (Audio us­ing mp3, Ogg Vorbis, or Flac, and…

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Freenet 0.7.5 build 1488 is now avail­able. This build im­proves trans­la­tions to make Freenet more invit­ing for peo­ple around the world: up­date French, add Hungarian.For ad­di­tional de­tails see the re­lease tag for 1488.You can down­load this re­lease as…

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2 417 shares, 83 trendiness, words and minutes reading time

If I could bring one thing back to the internet it would be blogs

Nowadays es­pe­cially it’s nice to have things to read. New things, things from var­i­ous sources and var­i­ous voices, var­i­ous minds talk­ing about their thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences, telling their sto­ries, post­ing pic­tures and things that are rel­e­vant to them. A cou­ple of years ago, maybe 8 or 10 so maybe longer than a lot of peo­ple will be able to re­mem­ber, there were blogs on the in­ter­net. You could search around and they’d come up even in web­search, and you’d find your­self read­ing some­one’s blogs. Maybe it was chron­i­cles of their life as they got a job teach­ing in Japan and how it was leav­ing American for the first time and all the new things there and skate­board­ing and meet­ing peo­ple and try­ing to meet girls, or a pho­tog­ra­pher work­ing for a while in Minorca or some is­land off Spain when mu­sic hit a rock scene pe­riod and all the young peo­ple were dress­ing up in leather and tight jeans and go­ing out danc­ing to dance rock and writ­ing about his thoughts on where he fit into the scene as he was kind of older but not old, or a com­pi­la­tion of weird and un­ex­plained sci­ence and gnos­tic wis­dom, or the things some guy was mak­ing out of wood or elec­tron­ics in his garage, or some Japanese girl who posted pic­tures of her­self look­ing ex­tremely pink and pneu­matic and writ­ing lit­tle things with them.

Nowadays when every­one is on lock­down and there are days with noth­ing but spaces of time to pass, nights too, and you can make a hot tea or a cof­fee and sit down but when you look there’s noth­ing to read. You can’t ac­cess those unique voices writ­ing about the things they care about, that are hap­pen­ing to them.

The other day I searched for an hour and could­n’t find even one. They used to be end­less. You’d just click on one you knew on Blogger and ei­ther click Blogger’s ran­dom blog but­ton, or go to the side­bar of the blog you knew where they al­ways had a list of blogs they liked, some­times four or 5, some­times 20 other blogs. And the same with Tumbler.

Blogs used to ex­ist be­cause there were blog­ging plat­forms. But Blogger was shut down by Google years ago, and the blogs on there have been dis­ap­pear­ing un­til now you just can’t find re­ally any, and they’re not in­dexed in search any­more. Tumbler also was used by peo­ple to blog about their lives and in­ter­ests, al­though there were also a lot of just pic­tures blogs, but it re­cently changed its pol­icy and now per­mits no NSFW con­tent, which com­pro­mised ba­si­cally every blog that men­tioned some­thing not com­pletely PG. All the old Tumbler blogs I had book­marks for I can’t even ac­cess any­more be­cause they were deemed by Tumbler to have NSFW con­tent. I think about how those peo­ple must feel af­ter putting all that work into mak­ing such a spe­cial thing and then Tumbler just de­stroys it. And that’s the end. There’s no way to find blogs, and no one is writ­ing them be­cause there’s no plat­form for them.

But they would be the one thing I’d bring back to the in­ter­net if I could bring one thing back. They’re the thing I miss the most and the most of­ten. They were the most valu­able thing on here, be­sides freer avail­abil­ity of news, free al­though low qual­ity video con­tent on YouTube, and I guess some kinds of so­cial me­dia. But blogs are some­thing you can sit down and read and get re­ally into to the point you for­get where you even are, and think about how you want to try those things maybe in your life, or just en­joy their writ­ing, and you can read deeper into them into past blog posts, and tune back in later and see what they’ve posted since the last things you read about them.

When you search for blogs now on you see things like Top 100 Blogs.’ How to Make a Successful Blog.’ Most Powerful 50 Blogs.’ But what you re­ally want is 10,000 un­suc­cess­ful blogs. Web search now sug­gests ideas for your blogs to get views, shares, in­dexed, but what you re­ally want is no ideas. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble now to find a blog that’s not on a fo­cused theme be­cause that’s what search en­gines fo­cus on and how web­sites profit. But you want the op­po­site, a blog that never tried to fo­cus or even thought about it. There used to seem to be end­less search re­sults in­dexed by Google and the other search en­gines that were killed by Google. Maybe you’d see 40,000 re­sults for your search. Now it says there are 40,000 but you only get 10 or 20 pages of re­sults you can get to, all ba­si­cally cor­po­rate and lame. You can’t get to the 100th page any­more. It’d be nice even if some­one built a crawler-in­dexer that you could use to search for every­thing in­clud­ing things that weren’t pop­u­lar or judged by al­go­rithms to be relevant.’ The prob­lem with al­ter­na­tive en­gines like DuckDuckGo is they just use Google Search and don’t crawl and in­dex things in their own way. If they did they’d be fun and use­ful to use for rea­sons other than pro­tec­tion of pri­vacy. Although some peo­ple say Google is be­com­ing more and more use­less to the point it won’t be re­vived and may col­lapse for this rea­son al­though even if that were true we’d still have to suf­fer with it for years.

A cou­ple of notes, in case any­one is think­ing of start­ing a new blog­ging plat­form:

There’s no point if you’re not go­ing to pro­tect peo­ple, and that means their pri­vacy. Nowadays peo­ple won’t share con­tent sim­ply be­cause they don’t trust the in­ter­net to share con­tent to it. You have to pro­vide for them to be anony­mous and pro­tected for­ever, which means let­ting peo­ple cre­ate ac­counts eas­ily with just an email or some­thing sim­i­lar, and log into them or re­cover their pass­word throught the email if they lose their pass­word, and never any lock­ing them out be­cause you no­ticed sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity or any­thing bo­gus like that and mak­ing them pro­vide per­sonal de­tails. That is abuse of trust and abuse of peo­ple. They have to be able to blog with­out think­ing some­one is go­ing to bring it up and file it away for­ever and maybe they won’t get a job be­cause of it, or their tyran­ni­cal gov­ern­ment will think they’re an ag­i­ta­tor and at­tack them or an ad­ver­sary will use it for se­lec­tive characger defama­tion some­time. They have to be able to aban­don a blog, start a new one, blog there, aban­don it, etc. Otherwise they won’t feel free to write, so you may as well not say you’re go­ing to pro­vide a blog­ging plat­form for peo­ple if you won’t pro­tect them.

Privacy pro­tec­tion and the in­abil­ity of this to be changed to be used ma­li­ciously must be baked in at the start. I doubt Larry and Sergei or even Gates would have cre­ated what they did the way they did if they knew what it would be used for. Those guys now can try to find other things to do with their lives now, or make up for it with char­ity, but their in­ven­tions are tools ter­ri­bly used against peo­ple on such an ex­treme level. Anybody cre­at­ing any­thing they think might some­day be­come big should bake in at the start pre­ven­tion against the pos­si­bil­ity it could be used neg­a­tively when it be­comes use­ful to pow­er­ful en­ti­ties. I’m not sure the host­ing servers could be based in the US be­cause the US does­n’t pro­tect pri­vacy or in­ter­net us­age. I’m not sure where does. I read that Argentina has con­sti­tu­tional law that pro­tect in­ster­net ex­pres­sion, al­though that free­dom is tem­pered by the pro­hi­bi­tion of writ­ing about their own gov­ern­ment. Entitites that hate that Argentina has a pro­tected free speech in­ter­net while the US and Canada and Europe don’t pro­tect hu­man rights on the in­ter­net will say Well be­cause of that Argentina is pro­vid­ing for ter­ror­ism and harm­ing chil­dren, the two fa­vorite claims of peo­ple who want to at­tack peo­ple or sys­tems when those peo­ple or sys­tems haven’t done any­thing ac­tu­ally wrong and they need to raise alarm in their sup­port­ers. Of course, those acts are pro­hib­ited in Argentina, but speech and ex­pres­sion on their in­ter­net is not, in­clud­ing of those things, as far as I know. I mean, just the idea: illegal in­for­ma­tion.’ Illegal speech.’

I’m not sure how a plat­form could be pro­tected. Perhaps by part­ner­ing early with a trusted, trans­par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion like the EFF and hav­ing them pub­licly au­dit the plat­form on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and say­ing that if this is ever al­tered and pub­lic trans­par­ent reg­u­lar au­dits of the plat­form stop it’s users should im­me­di­ately con­sider it com­pro­mised and stop us­ing it. Another thing might be to route all traf­fic through a VPN, a kind of server-side VPN pro­tec­tion, so while ISPs would log the do­main they would­n’t be able to log which spe­cific blogs they vis­ited or what they did there.

Also, you have to keep the con­tent on the server of backed up for­ever, oth­er­wise they won’t feel their ef­fort in blog­ging for years will be worth­while if the plat­form will some­day just erase it like Blogger and Tumbler did. Maybe the plat­form does­n’t have a ton of money so it has to not save the im­ages or videos, but at least the text should be main­tained.

Also, the plat­form must be prof­itable or promise fu­ture profit with­out abus­ing users or guests. This can sim­ply be ads pro­vided by one of the big in­ter­net ads com­pa­nies or an ads com­pany that’s part of the plat­form. Not too many ads so the blogs are ru­ined, but maybe an ad at the bot­tom or per­haps the top and bot­tom, pre­serv­ing the space that be­longs to the blog­ger. A Patreon or other anony­mous fi­nanc­ing op­tion could also be an op­tion. Also the com­pany prob­a­bly should not ever go pub­lic, as we have seen how the in­volve­ment of a cou­ple of big cor­po­ra­tions or gov­ern­ments made the in­ter­net (and past forms of ex­pres­sion) worse, and that any de­gree of in­volve­ment of ei­ther of these two things will eat away or com­pletely de­stroy it.

Ie, a plat­form where peo­ple can se­curely and pri­vately blog, where it can’t be con­verted into a tool for abuse of peo­ple, and where free­dom of pri­vacy, thought, ex­pres­sion and dis­cus­sion is main­tained and there is no chilling ef­fect on speech.’

The other thing is we miss out on open­ing up our real lives and shar­ing our lives and their lives with the rest of the world. 7b peo­ple. What we miss. Out there we could meet on our blogs real friends, lovers, peo­ple we could learn from, and in this shrink­ing world we could prob­a­bly meet them when we go trav­el­ing or they do. But peo­ple if they were al­lowed to be sin­cere could write their real thoughts and sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences in our com­ments, or we could find their blogs. This is some­thing that is just taken off the table in the cur­rent state of the in­ter­net, where the lack of solid pri­vacy pre­vents peo­ple from shar­ing their real selves or speak­ing from the heart or re­ally. That’s why the in­ter­net, peo­ple’s phones, their com­put­ers, and peo­ple to a large ex­tent de­velop daily and by the hour in su­per­fi­cial­ity and so­cially con­ser­v­a­tively/​de­fen­sively and not re­ally as peo­ple.

Some peo­ple have started to send blog links. You can com­ment what­ever you want of course, but here’s a page on red­dit where you can post links to blogs as well: https://​old.red­dit.com/​r/​TTT­This/​com­ments/​gqivbv/​post_links_­to_blogs_­worth_a_look_here/

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3 412 shares, 17 trendiness, words and minutes reading time

Bye YouTube, Hello PeerTube 📺 (no ads, decentralised, privacy-friendly! -- Diode Zone)

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4 316 shares, 13 trendiness, words and minutes reading time

An Inside Look at the Spy Tech That Followed Kids Home for Remote Learning — and Now Won’t Leave

A week af­ter the pan­demic forced Minneapolis stu­dents to at­tend classes on­line, the city school dis­tric­t’s top se­cu­rity chief got an ur­gent email, its sub­ject line in all caps, alert­ing him to po­ten­tial trou­ble. Just 12 sec­onds later, he got a sec­ond ping. And two min­utes af­ter that, a third.

In each in­stance, the emails warn­ing Jason Matlock of QUESTIONABLE CONTENT pointed to a sin­gle cul­prit: Kids were watch­ing car­toon porn.

Over the next six months, Matlock got nearly 1,300 sim­i­lar emails from Gaggle, a sur­veil­lance com­pany that mon­i­tors stu­dents’ school-is­sued Google and Microsoft ac­counts. Through ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and a team of con­tent mod­er­a­tors, Gaggle tracks the on­line be­hav­iors of mil­lions of stu­dents across the U. S. every day. The sheer vol­ume of re­ports was over­whelm­ing at first, Matlock ac­knowl­edged, and many in­ci­dents were ut­terly harm­less. About 100 were re­lated to an­i­mated pornog­ra­phy and, on one oc­ca­sion, a mem­ber of Gaggle’s re­mote sur­veil­lance team flagged a fic­tional story that ref­er­enced underwear.”

Hundreds of oth­ers, how­ever, sug­gested im­mi­nent dan­ger.

In emails and chat mes­sages, stu­dents dis­cussed vi­o­lent im­pulses, eat­ing dis­or­ders, abuse at home, bouts of de­pres­sion and, as one stu­dent put it, ending my life.” At a mo­ment of height­ened so­cial iso­la­tion and el­e­vated con­cern over stu­dents’ men­tal health, ref­er­ences to self-harm stood out, ac­count­ing for nearly a third of in­ci­dent re­ports over a six-month pe­riod. In a doc­u­ment ti­tled My Educational Autobiography,” stu­dents at Roosevelt High School on the south side of Minneapolis dis­cussed bul­ly­ing, drug over­doses and sui­cide. Kill me,” one stu­dent wrote in a doc­u­ment ti­tled goodbye.”

Nearly a year af­ter The 74 sub­mit­ted pub­lic records re­quests to un­der­stand the Minneapolis dis­tric­t’s use of Gaggle dur­ing the pan­demic, a trove of doc­u­ments of­fer an un­prece­dented look into how one school sys­tem de­ploys a con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity tool that grew rapidly dur­ing COVID-19, but car­ries sig­nif­i­cant civil rights and pri­vacy im­pli­ca­tions.

The data, gleaned from those 1,300 in­ci­dent re­ports in the first six months of the cri­sis, high­light how Gaggle’s team of con­tent mod­er­a­tors sub­ject chil­dren to re­lent­less dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance long af­ter classes end for the day, in­clud­ing on week­ends, hol­i­days, late at night and over the sum­mer. In fact, only about a quar­ter of in­ci­dents were re­ported to dis­trict of­fi­cials on school days be­tween 8 a.m and 4 p.m., bring­ing into sharp re­lief how the ser­vice ex­tends schools’ au­thor­ity far be­yond their tra­di­tional pow­ers to reg­u­late stu­dent speech and be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing at home.

Now, as COVID-era re­stric­tions sub­side and Minneapolis stu­dents re­turn to in-per­son learn­ing this fall, a tool that was pitched as a re­mote learn­ing ne­ces­sity is­n’t go­ing away any­time soon. Minneapolis of­fi­cials re­acted swiftly when the pan­demic en­gulfed the na­tion and forced stu­dents to learn from the con­fines of their bed­rooms, pay­ing more than $355,000 — in­clud­ing nearly $64,000 in fed­eral emer­gency re­lief money — to part­ner with Gaggle un­til 2023. Faced with a pub­lic health emer­gency, the dis­trict cir­cum­vented nor­mal pro­cure­ment rules, a re­al­ity that pre­vented con­cerned par­ents from rais­ing ob­jec­tions un­til af­ter it was too late.

With each alert, Matlock and other dis­trict of­fi­cials were given a vivid look into stu­dents’ most in­ti­mate thoughts and on­line be­hav­iors, rais­ing sig­nif­i­cant pri­vacy con­cerns. It’s un­clear, how­ever, if any of them made kids safer. Independent re­search on the ef­fi­cacy of Gaggle and sim­i­lar ser­vices is all but nonex­is­tent.

When stu­dents’ men­tal health comes into play, a com­pli­cated equa­tion emerges. In re­cent years, schools have ramped up ef­forts to iden­tify and pro­vide in­ter­ven­tions to chil­dren at risk of harm­ing them­selves or oth­ers. Gaggle ex­ec­u­tives see their tool as a key to iden­tify youth who are lament­ing over hard­ships or dis­cussing vi­o­lent plans. On av­er­age, Gaggle no­ti­fies school of­fi­cials within 17 min­utes af­ter ze­ro­ing in on stu­dent con­tent re­lated to sui­cide and self-harm, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, and of­fi­cials claim they saved more than 1,400 lives dur­ing the 2020-21 school year.

As a par­ent you have no idea what’s go­ing on in your kid’s head, but if you don’t know you can’t help them,” said Jeff Patterson, Gaggle’s founder and CEO. And I would al­ways want to err on try­ing to iden­tify kids who need help.”

Critics, how­ever, have ques­tioned Gaggle’s ef­fec­tive­ness and worry that rum­mag­ing through stu­dents per­sonal files and con­ver­sa­tions — and in some cases out­ing stu­dents for ex­hibit­ing signs of men­tal health is­sues in­clud­ing de­pres­sion — could back­fire.

Using sur­veil­lance to iden­tify chil­dren in dis­tress could ex­ac­er­bate feel­ings of stigma and shame and could ul­ti­mately make stu­dents less likely to ask for help, said Jennifer Mathis, the di­rec­tor of pol­icy and le­gal ad­vo­cacy at The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D. C.

Most kids in that sit­u­a­tion are not go­ing to share any­thing any­more and are go­ing to suf­fer for that,” she said. It sug­gests that any­thing you write or say or do in school — or out of school — may be found and held against you and used in ways that you had not en­vi­sioned.”

Minneapolis par­ent Holly Kragthorpe-Shirley had a sim­i­lar con­cern and ques­tioned whether kids actually have a safe space to raise some of their is­sues in a safe way” if they’re sti­fled by sur­veil­lance.

In Minneapolis, for in­stance, Gaggle flagged the key­words feel de­pressed” in a doc­u­ment ti­tled SEL Journal,” a ref­er­ence to so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing. In an­other in­stance, Gaggle flagged suicidal” in a doc­u­ment ti­tled mental health prob­lems work­book.”

District of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that Gaggle had cap­tured stu­dent as­sign­ments and other per­sonal files, an is­sue that civil rights groups have long been warn­ing about. The doc­u­ments ob­tained by The 74 put hard ev­i­dence be­hind those con­cerns, said Amelia Vance, the di­rec­tor of Youth and Education Privacy at The Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank.

The hy­po­thet­i­cals we’ve been talk­ing about for a few years have come to fruition,” she said. It is highly likely to un­der­cut the trust of stu­dents not only in their school gen­er­ally but in their teacher, in their coun­selor — in the men­tal health prob­lems work­book.”

Patterson shook off any pri­vacy reser­va­tions, in­clud­ing those re­lated to mon­i­tor­ing sen­si­tive ma­te­ri­als like jour­nal en­tries, which he char­ac­ter­ized as cries for help.”

Sometimes when we in­ter­vene we might cause some chal­lenges, but more of­ten than not the kids want to be helped,” he said. Though Gaggle only mon­i­tors stu­dent files tied to school ac­counts, he cited a mid­dle school girl’s pri­vate jour­nal in a suc­cess story. He said the girl wrote in a dig­i­tal jour­nal that she suf­fered with self es­teem is­sues and guilt af­ter get­ting raped.

No one in her life knew about this in­ci­dent and be­cause she jour­naled about it,” Gaggle was able to no­tify school of­fi­cials about what they’d learned, he said. They were able to in­ter­vene and get this girl help for things that she could­n’t have dealt with on her own.”

Tools like Gaggle have be­come ubiq­ui­tous in class­rooms across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to forth­com­ing re­search by the D. C.-based Center for Democracy & Technology. In a re­cent sur­vey, 81 per­cent of teach­ers re­ported hav­ing such soft­ware in place in their schools. Though most stu­dents said they’re com­fort­able be­ing mon­i­tored, 58 per­cent said they don’t share their true thoughts or ideas” as a re­sult and 80 per­cent said they’re more care­ful about what they search on­line.

Such data sug­gest that youth are be­ing primed to ac­cept sur­veil­lance as an in­evitable re­al­ity, said Elizabeth Laird, the cen­ter’s di­rec­tor of eq­uity in civic tech­nol­ogy. In re­turn, she said, they’re giv­ing up the abil­ity to ex­plore new ideas and learn from mis­takes.

Gaggle, in busi­ness since 1999 and re­cently re­lo­cated to Dallas, mon­i­tors the dig­i­tal files of more than 5 mil­lion stu­dents across the coun­try each year with the pan­demic be­ing very good for its bot­tom line. Since the on­set of the cri­sis, the num­ber of stu­dents sur­veilled by the pri­vately held com­pany, which does not re­port its yearly rev­enue, has grown by more than 20 per­cent. Through ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, Gaggle scans stu­dents’ emails, chat mes­sages and other ma­te­ri­als up­loaded to stu­dents’ Google or Microsoft ac­counts in search of key­words, im­ages or videos that could in­di­cate self-harm, vi­o­lence or sex­ual be­hav­ior. Moderators eval­u­ate flagged ma­te­r­ial and no­tify school of­fi­cials about con­tent they find trou­bling — a bar that Matlock ac­knowl­edged is quite low as the sys­tem is al­ways go­ing to err on the side of cau­tion” and re­quires dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors to eval­u­ate ma­te­ri­als’ con­text.

We’re look­ing for nee­dles in haystacks to ba­si­cally save kids.”

—Jeff Patterson, founder and CEO of Gaggle, which an­a­lyzed more than 10 bil­lion on­line stu­dent com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the 2020-21 school year.

In Minneapolis, Gaggle of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered a ma­jor­ity of of­fenses in files within stu­dents’ Google Drive, in­clud­ing in word doc­u­ments and spread­sheets. More than half of in­ci­dents orig­i­nated on the Drive. Meanwhile, 22 per­cent orig­i­nated in emails and 23 per­cent came from Google Hangouts, the chat fea­ture.

School of­fi­cials are alerted to only a tiny frac­tion of stu­dent com­mu­ni­ca­tions caught up in Gaggle’s drag­net. Last school year, Gaggle col­lected more than 10 bil­lion items na­tion­ally but just 360,000 in­ci­dents re­sulted in no­ti­fi­ca­tions to dis­trict of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. Nationally, 41 per­cent of in­ci­dents dur­ing the 2020-21 school year re­lated to sui­cide and self-harm, ac­cord­ing to Gaggle, and a quar­ter cen­tered on vi­o­lence.

We are look­ing for nee­dles in haystacks to ba­si­cally save kids,” Patterson said.

It was Google Hangouts that had Matt Shaver on edge. When the pan­demic hit, class­rooms were re­placed by video con­fer­ences and ca­sual stu­dent in­ter­ac­tions in hall­ways and cafe­te­rias were rel­e­gated to Hangouts. For Shaver, who taught at a Minneapolis el­e­men­tary school dur­ing the pan­demic, stu­dents’ Hangouts use be­came over­whelm­ing.

Students were so busy chat­ting with each other, he said, that many had lost fo­cus on class­room in­struc­tion. So he pro­posed a blunt so­lu­tion to dis­trict tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cials: Shut it down.

The thing I wanted was Take the temp­ta­tion away, take the op­por­tu­nity away for them to use that,’” said Shaver, who has since left teach­ing and is now pol­icy di­rec­tor at the ed­u­ca­tion re­form group EdAllies. And I ac­tu­ally got push­back from IT say­ing No we’re not go­ing to do that, this is a good so­cial as­pect that we’re try­ing to repli­cate.’”

But un­like those hall­way in­ter­ac­tions, no­body was watch­ing. Matlock, the dis­tric­t’s se­cu­rity head, said he was ini­tially in the mar­ket for a new anony­mous re­port­ing tool, which al­lows stu­dents to flag their friends for be­hav­iors they find trou­bling. He turned to Gaggle, which op­er­ates the anony­mous re­port­ing sys­tem SpeakUp for Safety, and saw the com­pa­ny’s AI-powered dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance tool, which goes well be­yond SpeakUp’s pow­ers to fer­ret out po­ten­tially alarm­ing stu­dent be­hav­ior, as a pos­si­bil­ity to enhance the sup­ports for stu­dents on­line.”

We wanted to get some­thing in place quickly, as we were mov­ing quickly with the lock­down,” he said, adding that go­ing through tra­di­tional pro­cure­ment hoops could take months. Gaggle had a strong na­tional pres­ence and a rep­u­ta­tion.”

The dis­trict signed an ini­tial six-month, $99,603 con­tract with Gaggle just a week af­ter the virus shut­tered schools in Minneapolis. Board of Education Chair Kim Ellison signed a sec­ond, three-year con­tract at an an­nual rate of $255,750 in September 2020.

The move came with steep con­se­quences. Though SpeakUP was used just three times dur­ing the six-month win­dow in­cluded in The 74’s data, Gaggle’s sur­veil­lance tool flagged stu­dents nearly 1,300 times.

During that time, which co­in­cided with the switch to re­mote learn­ing, the largest share of in­ci­dents — 38 per­cent — were porno­graphic or sex­ual in na­ture, in­clud­ing ref­er­ences to sexual ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing a stu­dent,” pro­fes­sional videos and ex­plicit, stu­dent-pro­duced self­ies which trig­ger alerts to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I’m try­ing to imag­ine find­ing out about this as a high schooler, that every sin­gle word I’ve writ­ten on a Google Hangout or what­ever is be­ing mon­i­tored … we live in a coun­try with laws around un­rea­son­able search and seizure — and sur­veil­lance is just a re­ally slip­pery slope.”

—Matt Shaver, for­mer Minneapolis Public Schools teacher

An ad­di­tional 30 per­cent were re­lated to sui­cide and self-harm, in­clud­ing in­ci­dents that were trig­gered by key­words in­clud­ing cutting,” feeling de­pressed,” want to die,” and end it all.” an ad­di­tional 18 per­cent were re­lated to vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing threats, phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tions, ref­er­ences to weapons and sus­pected child abuse. Such in­ci­dents were trig­gered by key­words in­clud­ing Bomb,” Glock,” going to fight,” and beat her.” About a fifth of in­ci­dents were trig­gered by pro­fan­ity.

Concerns over Gaggle’s reach dur­ing the pan­demic weren’t lim­ited to Minneapolis. In December 2020, a group of civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California ar­gued in a let­ter that by us­ing Gaggle, the Fresno Unified School District had vi­o­lated the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which re­quires of­fi­cials to ob­tain search war­rants be­fore ac­cess­ing elec­tronic in­for­ma­tion. Such mon­i­tor­ing, the groups con­tend, in­fringe on stu­dents’ free-speech and pri­vacy rights with lit­tle abil­ity to opt out.

Shaver, whose stu­dents used Google Hangouts to the point of it be­com­ing a dis­trac­tion, was alarmed to learn that those com­mu­ni­ca­tions were be­ing an­a­lyzed by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and poured over by a re­mote team of peo­ple he did­n’t even know.

I’m try­ing to imag­ine find­ing out about this as a high schooler, that every sin­gle word I’ve writ­ten on a Google Hangout or what­ever is be­ing mon­i­tored,” he said. There is, of course, some les­son in this, ob­vi­ously like, Be care­ful of what you put on­line.’ But we live in a coun­try with laws around un­rea­son­able search and seizure — and sur­veil­lance is just a re­ally slip­pery slope.”

To Matlock, Gaggle is a life­saver — lit­er­ally. When the tool flagged a Minneapolis stu­den­t’s sui­cide note in the mid­dle of the night, Matlock said he rushed to in­ter­vene. In a late-night phone call, the se­cu­rity chief said he warned the un­named par­ents, who knew their child was strug­gling but did­n’t fully rec­og­nize how bad things had be­come. Because of Gaggle, school of­fi­cials were able to get the stu­dent help. To Matlock, the pos­si­bil­ity that he saved a stu­den­t’s life of­fers a feel­ing he can’t even mea­sure in words.”

If it saved one kid, if it sup­ported one care­giver, if it sup­ported one fam­ily, I’ll take it,” he said. That’s the bot­tom line.”

Despite height­ened con­cern over youth men­tal health is­sues dur­ing the pan­demic, its ef­fect on youth sui­cide rates re­mains fuzzy. Preliminary data from the Minnesota health de­part­ment show a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in sui­cides statewide dur­ing the pan­demic. Between 2019 and 2020, sui­cides among peo­ple 24 years old and younger de­creased by more than 20 per­cent statewide. Nationally, the pro­por­tion of youth emer­gency room vis­its re­lated to sus­pected sui­cide at­tempts has surged dur­ing the pan­demic, ac­cord­ing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but pre­lim­i­nary mor­tal­ity data for peo­ple of all ages show a 5.6 per­cent de­cline in self-in­flicted fa­tal­i­ties in 2020 com­pared to 2019.

Meanwhile, Gaggle re­ported that it iden­ti­fied a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease of threats re­lated to sui­cide, self-harm and vi­o­lence na­tion­wide be­tween March 2020 and March 2021. During that pe­riod, Gaggle ob­served a 31 per­cent in­crease in flagged con­tent over­all, in­clud­ing a 35 per­cent in­crease in ma­te­ri­als re­lated to sui­cide and self-harm. Gaggle of­fi­cials said the data high­light a men­tal health cri­sis among youth dur­ing the pan­demic. But other fac­tors could be at play. Among them is a 50 per­cent surge in stu­dents’ screen-time dur­ing the pan­demic, cre­at­ing ad­di­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for Gaggle to tag youth be­hav­ior. Meanwhile, the num­ber of stu­dents mon­i­tored by Gaggle na­tion­ally grew markedly dur­ing the pan­demic.

But that has­n’t stopped Gaggle from cit­ing pan­demic-era men­tal ill­ness in sales pitches as it mar­kets a new ser­vice: Gaggle Therapy. In school dis­tricts that sign up for the ser­vice, stu­dents who are flagged by Gaggle’s dig­i­tal mon­i­tor­ing tool are matched with coun­selors for weekly telether­apy ses­sions. Therapists avail­able through the ser­vice are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors for Gaggle and dis­tricts can ei­ther pay Gaggle for blanket cov­er­age,” which makes all stu­dents el­i­gi­ble, or a retainer” fee, which al­lows them to use the ser­vice as you need it,” ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. Under the sec­ond sce­nario, Gaggle would have a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to iden­tify more stu­dents in need of telether­apy.

In Minneapolis, Matlock said that school-based so­cial work­ers and coun­selors lead in­ter­ven­tion ef­forts when stu­dents are iden­ti­fied for ma­te­ri­als re­lated to self-harm. The ini­tial mo­ment may be a shock” when stu­dents are con­fronted by school staff about their on­line be­hav­iors, he said, but pro­vid­ing them with help is much bet­ter in the long run.”

As the dis­trict rolled out the ser­vice, many par­ents and stu­dents were out of the loop. Among them was Nathaniel Genene, a re­cent grad­u­ate who served as the Minneapolis school board’s stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the time. He said that class­mates con­tacted him af­ter ini­tial news of the Gaggle con­tract was re­leased.

I had a cou­ple of friends tex­ting me like Nathaniel, is this true?’” he said. It was kind of in­ter­est­ing be­cause I had no idea it was even a thing.”

Yet as stu­dents gained a greater aware­ness that their com­mu­ni­ca­tions were be­ing mon­i­tored, Matlock said they be­gan to test Gaggle’s pa­ra­me­ters us­ing po­ten­tial key­words and then say Hi’ to us while they put it in there.”

As stu­dents be­came con­di­tioned to Gaggle, the shock is prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit less,” said Rochelle Cox, an as­so­ci­ate su­per­in­ten­dent at the Minneapolis school dis­trict. Now, she said stu­dents have an out­let to get help with­out hav­ing to ex­plic­itly ask. Instead, they can ex­press their con­cerns on­line with an un­der­stand­ing that school of­fi­cials are lis­ten­ing. As a re­sult, school-based men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als are able to pro­vide the care stu­dents need, she said.

Mathis, with The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, called that ar­gu­ment ridiculous.” Officials should make sure that stu­dents know about avail­able men­tal health ser­vices and en­sure that they feel com­fort­able reach­ing out for help, she said.

That’s very dif­fer­ent than de­cid­ing that we’re go­ing to catch peo­ple by hav­ing them write into the ether and that’s how we’re go­ing to find the stu­dents who need help,” she said. We can be a lot more di­rect in com­mu­ni­cat­ing than that, and we should be a lot more di­rect and a lot more pos­i­tive.”

In fact, sub­ject­ing stu­dents to sur­veil­lance could push them fur­ther into iso­la­tion and con­di­tion them to lie when of­fi­cials reach out to in­quire about their dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions, ar­gued Vance of the Future of Privacy Forum.

Effective in­ter­ven­tions are rarely go­ing to be built on that, you know, I saw what you were typ­ing into a Google search last night’ or writing a jour­nal en­try for your English class,’” Vance said. That does­n’t feel like it builds a trust­ing re­la­tion­ship. It feels creepy.”

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Don’t Joke About Firing People

One of the most nar­row pieces of feed­back I give to peo­ple be­ing pro­moted to man­ager is sim­ple - don’t joke about fir­ing peo­ple. When I de­liver this feed­back peo­ple will of­ten re­spond with some form of be­fud­dle­ment: I was­n’t plan­ning to”, Ummm….OK”, Obviously”. However, this feed­back is dri­ven by knowl­edge of mis­takes made by a num­ber of new man­agers.

When peo­ple get pro­moted to man­ager their for­mer peers be­come di­rect re­ports. It’s awk­ward. They try to break the ten­sion with self dep­re­ca­tion and pok­ing fun at the new­found re­spon­si­bil­ity. That haha I’m the bu­reau­crat now what a joke this is” at­ti­tude car­ries through each new day and even­tu­ally some sit­u­a­tion arises where a re­port makes some sort of gaffe. They spill their cof­fee. They ac­ci­den­tally let a door close in your face. Their com­puter runs out of bat­tery in a meet­ing. And then it hap­pens: that’s it, pack your things and go, you’re out of here buddy”. Or some other joke about their ter­mi­na­tion from the com­pany.

You might think it’s in­nocu­ous, but it’s not. The sec­ond you be­came their man­ager you for­feited the right to joke around in any ca­pac­ity about their em­ploy­ment at the com­pany. Even though you still feel like a pal jok­ing around, even though the fact that you’d make the joke at all is a tes­ta­ment to your dis­com­fort with hav­ing to make fir­ing de­ci­sions, it’s not some­thing you can ever joke about. People don’t find it funny be­cause it’s not funny. The abil­ity to ter­mi­nate some­one’s em­ploy­ment is a big deal. Treat it that way, al­ways.

Furthermore, this sort of break-the-awk­ward­ness mis­take can be made at other, even more in­ap­pro­pri­ate times. Anything caus­ing dis­com­fort in the air - from COVID-19 to po­lice bru­tal­ity and be­yond - is an op­por­tu­nity for a man­ager to try and break the dis­com­fort where it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate. The ad­vice is sim­ple: don’t kid about se­ri­ous things. Even if you think the spirit of the com­ment is clearly in sup­port of your team or well mean­ing. Don’t do it.

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There are six internet links on my office on wheels. Seven when Starlink arrives.

🙌 I’m Geoff. I live a min­i­mal­ist lifestyle in a van that is slowly work­ing its’ way around Australia. When I’m not send­ing cake to GitHub I work as a soft­ware en­gi­neer at Gitpod, a prod­uct (and open-source pro­ject) that pro­vides ephemeral soft­ware de­vel­op­ment en­vi­ron­ments in the cloud.

This post is the fourth in the se­ries about re­mote work from a van. If this is your first time read­ing my blog and you have ques­tions about liv­ing (including toi­lets or show­er­ing) and work­ing from a van then check out these blog posts:

Anyway, if you are go­ing to work re­motely any­where in Australia from a van, you need damn good in­ter­net. Here’s how I put to­gether a ve­hi­cle with the best in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity in Australia:

There are three mo­bile phone car­ri­ers in Australia. Thus, nat­u­rally, the van has a con­nec­tion with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

I use Huawei B818 modems be­cause they run off 12volts and are LTE cat­e­gory 19 4G modems that sup­port car­rier ag­gre­ga­tion. Each 4G mo­dem is con­nected to its own XPOL-1-5G om­ni­di­rec­tional an­tenna. In Australia, the Huawei B818 modems can be found cheaply on eBay and whilst they have Optus brand­ing they work on all mo­bile car­ri­ers.

The ex­ter­nal an­ten­nas are im­por­tant be­cause the in­su­la­tion of my van, un­for­tu­nately, in­ter­feres with mo­bile re­cep­tion and in­built an­ten­nas, in gen­eral, are garbage in com­par­i­son to spe­cialised an­ten­nas.

There are also two Alfa AOA-2458 high gain WiFi an­ten­nas mounted on the back of the van con­nected to an Alfa AWUS036ACH USB WiFi adapter that is used to pro­vide in­bound in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity from friendly WiFi hotspots.

Finally, there’s a Nokia FastMile 5G mo­dem that pro­vides un­lim­ited high-speed data when I’m near ar­eas that have 5G cov­er­age (ie. when ur­ban camp­ing in cities). As this mo­dem does not have the op­tion for ex­ter­nal an­ten­nas the mo­dem is in the dri­ver’s cab and a net­work ca­ble is run from there to the net­work switch.

All of the above gets merged into a sin­gle in­ter­net con­nec­tion via an ESXi vir­tual ma­chine run­ning on an Intel NUC with eight Ethernet ports that are bonded out to the vans in­ter­net router; an UniFi Dream Machine Pro, which pro­vides WiFi con­nec­tiv­ity via an UniFi AC Mesh Pro (for when sit­ting at a park bench) and an UniFi AC Pro (for when in­side the van).

The key piece to mak­ing this all work is:

Speedify per­forms chan­nel bond­ing to com­bine mul­ti­ple Internet con­nec­tions into a faster, more re­li­able con­nec­tion and au­to­mat­i­cally pri­or­i­tizes streams over other net­work traf­fic so you avoid stut­ter­ing, buffer­ing and dis­con­nects.

Each net­work con­nec­tion that is bonded by Speedify can be con­fig­ured with cus­tom pri­or­ity rules such as:

Network con­nec­tions that are bonded can be con­fig­ured as fol­lows:

* Streaming: Speedify max­i­mizes the speed and re­li­a­bil­ity of your stream­ing traf­fic (video calls, au­dio calls, live stream­ing, etc.) by in­tel­li­gently us­ing both bond­ing and re­dun­dant traf­fic to get the best per­for­mance from your avail­able in­ter­net con­nec­tions. This mode uses ex­tra data to de­liver a bet­ter stream­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

* Speed: Speedify in­tel­li­gently dis­trib­utes web traf­fic amongst all avail­able in­ter­net con­nec­tions in or­der to de­liver op­ti­mal speed and per­for­mance.

* Redundant: Speedify op­er­ates at the speed of the fastest sin­gle in­ter­net con­nec­tion and uses ad­di­tional data in or­der to de­liver an ul­tra-re­li­able con­nec­tion. When us­ing Redundant Mode, each packet gets sent si­mul­ta­ne­ously over mul­ti­ple con­nec­tions and whichever packet gets through first, is the one to be de­liv­ered.

When I’m camp­ing some­where with ter­ri­ble in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity on all net­work links I switch Speedify to the Redundant mode. Speedify is sim­ply amaz­ing - I’ve been in sit­u­a­tions where I’ve been dri­ving in re­gional NSW where there’s no mo­bile phone ser­vice on my phone but the in­ter­net link re­mains solid enough to sus­tain a con­nec­tion to stream mu­sic from Spotify.

You might be won­der­ing how much this costs to run each month? The fastest, most re­dun­dant and portable in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity in Australia costs circa $280 AUD/month (+$139 AUD/month when Starlink launches) with the ma­jor­ity of the cost be­ing tax-de­ductible as this is a busi­ness ex­pen­di­ture. In the fu­ture, I in­tend to sell in­ter­net ac­cess via the UniFi Captive Portal to fel­low campers and re­mote work­ers so I’m re­ally not con­cerned with the price as I need in­ter­net to make money.

Yes, this setup is overkill but hav­ing func­tion­ing in­ter­net is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for me to be able to make money and also when spend­ing time with my young kids. Nothing beats time around a fire­place cook­ing marsh­mal­lows, eat­ing a freshly cooked bag of pop­corn and bond­ing over your child­hood movie favourites or hav­ing emer­gency ac­cess to ABC read­ing eggs.

Honestly, I don’t even need a fast in­ter­net con­nec­tion when do­ing my soft­ware de­vel­op­ment tasks be­cause with Gitpod my com­puter is a data cen­tre. What I need is a net­work con­nec­tion with low packet loss and that’s where hav­ing six (soon seven) in­ter­net links comes into play.

Having said that, the ex­tra band­width and re­siliency do come in handy when do­ing Twitch streams, how­ever!

Speedify is also avail­able for Android and iOS. By pair­ing an ex­ter­nal 4G Nighthawk WiFi router with an iPad Pro with Celluar or your smart­phone you can achieve a sim­i­lar setup.

Above is the ex­act setup that I used re­cently two weeks ago whilst work­ing up in the Bunya Mountains from an iPad Pro and a 27000mwh USB-C bat­tery pack.

Anyway, thanks for read­ing.  I’ll be do­ing a live Q&A at 6PM EDT on Tuesday the 21st of September. Come hang out and ask any ques­tions you may have!

This post is the fifth in the se­ries. I’m blog­ging more and tweet­ing less, so if you want to learn about sweet places to visit in Australia, work­ing re­motely from a van en­ter your email ad­dress to be no­ti­fied when fu­ture blog posts ship.

ps. Musk, baby, hook me up with Starlink sooner?

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Privacy using our Tor-inspired onion routing

Do not put your­self in dan­ger. Our anonymity is not yet ma­ture.

Tribler does not pro­tect you against spooks and gov­ern­ment agen­cies. We are a tor­rent client and aim to pro­tect you against lawyer-based at­tacks and cen­sor­ship. With help from many vol­un­teers we are con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing and im­prov­ing.

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Ben Roberts on LinkedIn: I am in the Wing delivery area in Canberra and have been getting my

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Revolt of the Delivery Workers

This ar­ti­cle is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween New York Magazine and The Verge.

Lea el re­por­taje en es­pañol aquí.

The Willis Avenue Bridge, a 3,000-foot stretch of as­phalt and beige-painted steel con­nect­ing Manhattan and the Bronx, is the per­fect place for an am­bush. The nar­row bike path along its west side is poorly lit; dark­ened trash-strewn al­coves on ei­ther end are use­ful for ly­ing in wait. All sum­mer, food-de­liv­ery work­ers re­turn­ing home af­ter their shifts have been vi­o­lently at­tacked there for their bikes: by gun­men pulling up on mo­tor­cy­cles, by knife-wield­ing thieves leap­ing from the re­cesses, by mug­gers block­ing the path with Citi Bikes and bran­dish­ing bro­ken bot­tles.

Once you go onto that bridge, it’s an­other world,” one fre­quent crosser said. You ever see wildlife with the wilde­beest try­ing to cross with the croc­o­diles? That’s the croc­o­diles over there. We’re the wilde­beests just try­ing to get by.”

Lately, de­liv­ery work­ers have found safety in num­bers. On a hu­mid July night, his last din­ner or­ders com­plete, Cesar Solano, a lanky and se­ri­ous 19-year-old from Guerrero, Mexico, rode his heavy elec­tric bike onto the side­walk at 125th Street and First Avenue and dis­mounted be­neath an over­pass. Across the street, through a lat­tice of on-ramps and off-ramps, was the en­trance to the Willis, which threads un­der the exit of the RFK Bridge and over the Harlem River Drive be­fore shoot­ing out across the Harlem River. Whatever hap­pens on the bridge is blocked from view by the high­way.

Several other work­ers had al­ready ar­rived. The head­lights of their parked bikes pro­vided the only il­lu­mi­na­tion. Cesar watched, his arms crossed, as his older cousin Sergio Solano and an­other worker strung a ban­ner be­tween the traf­fic light and a sign­post on the cor­ner. It read WE ARE ON GUARD TO PROTECT OUR DELIVERY WORKERS.

Sergio walked back be­neath the over­pass, took up his mega­phone, and whooped the siren, sig­nal­ing to work­ers rid­ing up First Avenue to wait and form a group be­fore cross­ing. When five as­sem­bled, he an­nounced the next de­par­ture for the Bronx.

Cesar, Sergio, and three other mem­bers of their fam­ily, all of whom work de­liv­er­ing food, had been stand­ing watch each night for nearly a month. They live to­gether nearby and heard about the at­tacks through the Facebook page they co-founded called El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana, or The Deliveryboys in the Big Apple Daily.” They started it in part to chron­i­cle the bike thefts that have been plagu­ing work­ers on the bridge and else­where across the city. Sergio him­self lost two bikes in two months. He re­ported both to the po­lice, but the cases went nowhere, an ex­pe­ri­ence com­mon enough that many work­ers have con­cluded call­ing 911 is a waste of time.

Losing a bike is dev­as­tat­ing for a de­liv­ery worker, oblit­er­at­ing sev­eral weeks’ worth of wages as well as the tool they need to earn those wages. It’s my col­league,” Cesar said in Spanish through an in­ter­preter. It’s what takes me to work; it’s who I work with and what takes me home.” He’s cus­tomized his with dark-blue tape cov­er­ing its frame, blue spokes, and color-chang­ing LED light strips on its rear rack. Two Mexican flags fly from his front fork. He also at­tached a sec­ond bat­tery since the main one lasts only seven hours, and he rides fast and for every app he can, typ­i­cally work­ing from break­fast to din­ner. He main­tains his bike with the help of a trav­el­ing me­chanic known only as Su, who broad­casts his GPS lo­ca­tion as he roams up­per Manhattan. Recently, Cesar added a hol­ster to his top bar for his five-pound steel U-lock so he can quickly draw it to de­fend him­self in case of at­tack.

Even be­fore the thefts started, the city’s 65,000 de­liv­ery work­ers had tol­er­ated so much: the fluc­tu­at­ing pay, the length­en­ing routes, the re­lent­less time pres­sure en­forced by mer­cu­r­ial soft­ware, the deadly care­less­ness of dri­vers, the pour­ing rain and bru­tal heat, and the in­dig­nity of piss­ing be­hind a dump­ster be­cause the restau­rant that de­pends on you re­fuses to let you use its re­stroom. And every day there were the triv­ially small items peo­ple or­dered and the pal­try tips they gave — all while call­ing you a hero and avoid­ing eye con­tact. Cesar re­cently biked from 77th on the Upper East Side 18 blocks south and over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, then up through Long Island City and over an­other bridge to Roosevelt Island, all to de­liver a sin­gle slice of cake for no tip at all. And now he had to worry about los­ing his bike, pur­chased with sav­ings on his birth­day.

For Cesar and many other de­liv­ery work­ers, the thefts broke some­thing loose. Some started protest­ing and lob­by­ing, part­ner­ing with non­prof­its and city of­fi­cials to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion. Cesar and the Deliveryboys took an­other tack, form­ing a civil guard rem­i­nis­cent of the one that pa­trolled San Juan Puerto Montaña, the small, mostly Indigenous Me’phaa vil­lage where they are from.

That night, the space un­der the RFK over­pass was a makeshift but wel­com­ing way sta­tion. Aluminum cater­ing trays of tacos and beans were ar­rayed be­neath the trusses of the bridge. Arrivals never went long be­fore be­ing of­fered a plate and a Fanta. The parked bikes flashed fes­tively. Some work­ers lin­gered only long enough for a quick fist bump be­fore form­ing a con­voy and de­part­ing. But a ro­tat­ing crew of around a dozen stayed and chat­ted — shar­ing sto­ries about who got in an ac­ci­dent and how they’re do­ing, how or­ders had slowed lately. Cesar, who hopes to be a video ed­i­tor, livestreamed his nightly broad­cast to the Deliveryboys page. It was some­thing be­tween a news bul­letin and a pledge drive, with Cesar in­ter­view­ing work­ers, thank­ing peo­ple for do­nat­ing food, and shout­ing out to his view­ers, who num­ber in the thou­sands and tune in from Staten Island to their home­town in Mexico.

Just be­fore 1 a.m., a de­liv­ery worker rode up, his right arm bleed­ing. People rushed to him. The worker had been wait­ing, he ex­plained, at a red light on 110th when some­one leaped in front of him with a knife and de­manded his bike. The worker ac­cel­er­ated but was slashed on the arm as he fled. Soon, a po­lice cruiser ar­rived and later an am­bu­lance.

The worker, his blood pool­ing on the street, at first re­fused to be taken to the hos­pi­tal. But the Deliveryboys con­vinced him to go. Sergio and Cesar shared their phone num­bers and took his bike home when they left around 2 a.m. He re­trieved it the next day be­fore the Deliveryboys be­gan their watch again.

Juan Solano makes de­liv­er­ies in mid­town dur­ing the din­ner rush.

Between the lunch and din­ner shifts, de­liv­ery work­ers rest at an un­der­ground garage that serves as a makeshift break room.

Anthony Chavez with the bat­ter­ies for the elec­tric bikes that must be changed every six hours.

At a garage on the West Side of Manhattan, bik­ers charge bat­ter­ies for their elec­tric bikes ahead of the din­ner shift.

For years, de­liv­ery work­ers in New York have im­pro­vised so­lu­tions like the bridge pa­trol to make their jobs fea­si­ble. These meth­ods have been re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful, un­der­gird­ing the il­lu­sion of lim­it­less and fric­tion­less de­liv­ery. But every hack that made their work­ing con­di­tions tol­er­a­ble only en­cour­aged the apps and restau­rants to ask more of them, un­til the job evolved into some­thing uniquely in­tense, dan­ger­ous, and pre­car­i­ous.

Take the elec­tric bike. When e-bikes first ar­rived in the city in the late 2000s, they were rid­den mostly by older Chinese im­mi­grants who used them to stay in the job as they aged, ac­cord­ing to Do Lee, a Queens College pro­fes­sor who wrote his dis­ser­ta­tion on de­liv­ery work­ers. But once restau­rant own­ers and ex­ec­u­tives at com­pa­nies like Uber, DoorDash, and Grubhub-Seamless fig­ured out it was pos­si­ble to do more and faster de­liv­er­ies, they ad­justed their ex­pec­ta­tions, and e-bikes be­came a de facto job re­quire­ment.

Today, de­liv­ery work­ers have an over­whelm­ingly pre­ferred brand: the Arrow, es­sen­tially a rugged bat­tery-pow­ered moun­tain bike that tops out at around 28 miles per hour. A new Arrow runs $1,800 and can eas­ily ex­ceed $2,500 once it’s equipped with phone-charg­ing mounts, lights, sec­ond bat­ter­ies, air horns, racks, mud flaps, and other es­sen­tial up­grades. What be­gan as a tech­no­log­i­cal as­sist has be­come a ma­jor start-up in­vest­ment.

Delivery work­ers now move faster than just about any­thing else in the city. They keep pace with cars and weave be­tween them when traf­fic slows, ever vig­i­lant for open­ing taxi doors and merg­ing trucks. They know they go too fast, any worker will say, but it’s a cal­cu­lated risk. Slowing down means be­ing pun­ished by the apps.

A few days af­ter the Deliveryboys be­gan their Willis guard, I met Anthony Chavez in front of a sleek glass apart­ment build­ing near Lincoln Center. Chavez is some­thing of an in­flu­encer among de­liv­ery work­ers, though his fame was in­ad­ver­tent and the 26-year-old is too re­served to fully em­brace the role. Wanting to share the tricks and tex­ture of New York de­liv­ery, he started film­ing his work in late 2019 and post­ing the videos to a Facebook page he started called Chapín en Dos Ruedas, mean­ing Guatemalan on Two Wheels.” Later, his posts about bike thefts would ex­pand his au­di­ence to more than 12,000, but at first it was mostly just the six other Guatemalan de­liv­ery work­ers he lives with in the Bronx. Long stretches of his videos pass with lit­tle di­a­logue, just the back­ground whine of his bike and the Dopplering traf­fic punc­tu­ated oc­ca­sion­ally by his ad­vice: Always wear a hel­met, only lis­ten to mu­sic with one ear­bud, avoid run­ning red lights, and, if you must, re­ally look both ways.

For about half his week, Chavez works at a ro­tis­serie-chicken spot in mid­town. He likes it there; the de­liv­ery ra­dius is a bit over a mile, and the kitchen is good at batch­ing or­ders. The restau­rant pays him even when an ac­ci­dent takes him out of com­mis­sion. He does­n’t even need his Arrow. Instead, he rides his pedal-pow­ered Cannondale. An en­thu­si­as­tic cy­clist who rode BMXs back home and wears a small gold bike on his neck­lace, he likes cy­cling best about the job.

This used to be how de­liv­ery worked across the city. A restau­rant that made de­liv­ery-friendly food like pizza or Chinese em­ployed peo­ple to take it to cus­tomers in the neigh­bor­hood. Managers could be cruel, and own­ers fre­quently ex­ploited a work­er’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus with il­le­gally low wages, but the restau­rant also pro­vided shel­ter, re­strooms, and of­ten free meals and a place to eat them along­side co-work­ers. Unfortunately for Chavez, the chicken spot never has enough hours, so the rest of the time, he works for the apps.

Before the apps, sites like Seamless and Grubhub sim­ply listed restau­rants that al­ready of­fered de­liv­ery. But DoorDash, Postmates, and the other apps that ar­rived in the mid-2010s had their own de­liv­ery work­ers, armies of con­trac­tors di­rected by soft­ware on their phones. If a restau­rant did­n’t of­fer de­liv­ery or was too far away, the app just sent a gig worker to or­der take­out and bring it to you.

The main rea­son restau­rants weren’t al­ready let­ting you or­der a sin­gle ba­con, egg, and cheese from 50 blocks away for al­most no charge is that it’s a ter­ri­ble busi­ness model. Expensive, waste­ful, la­bor in­ten­sive — you would lose money on every or­der. The apps promised to solve this prob­lem through al­go­rith­mic op­ti­miza­tion and scale. This has yet to hap­pen — none of the com­pa­nies are con­sis­tently prof­itable — but for a while they solved the prob­lem with money. Armed with bil­lions in ven­ture cap­i­tal, the apps sub­si­dized what had been a low-mar­gin side gig of the restau­rant in­dus­try un­til it re­sem­bled any other Silicon Valley con­sumer-grat­i­fi­ca­tion ma­chine. Seamless, which merged with Grubhub and added its own gig plat­form to com­pete, was par­tic­u­larly di­rect in its pitch, run­ning cutesy sub­way ads about or­der­ing de­liv­ery with zero hu­man con­tact and re­quest­ing minia­ture en­trées for your ham­ster.

They obey the be­spoke in­struc­tions that pop up on their screens: Don’t wait out­side Benny’s Burritos, don’t ask to use the re­stroom, be super nice!” to Dig Inn be­cause it is a VIP client” — or have your ac­count sus­pended.

The apps failed and bought each other, and now three gi­ants re­main: DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub-Seamless. Each di­vides the New York mar­ket more or less equally, and each uses the piece­work model pi­o­neered by Uber it­self. Workers get paid when they ac­cept and com­plete a de­liv­ery, and a game­like sys­tem of re­wards and penal­ties keeps them mov­ing: high scores for be­ing on time, low scores and fewer or­ders for tar­di­ness, and so on. Chavez and oth­ers call it the pa­trón fan­tasma, the phan­tom boss — al­ways watch­ing and quick to pun­ish you for be­ing late but nowhere to be found when you need $10 to fix your bike or when you get doored and have to go to the hos­pi­tal.

Then there is a fourth app, which Chavez and thou­sands of oth­ers work for but few cus­tomers have heard of, called Relay Delivery. It’s a pri­vately held com­pany founded in 2014 and mostly lim­ited to New York. The best way to un­der­stand Relay is to think of most de­liv­ery apps as two dif­fer­ent busi­nesses: the lu­cra­tive dig­i­tal one that cus­tomers or­der from and that charges restau­rants com­mis­sion and ad­ver­tis­ing fees, and the la­bor-in­ten­sive, lo­gis­ti­cally com­pli­cated — crummy,” in the words of Grubhub’s founder — busi­ness of get­ting the food to the cus­tomer. Relay han­dles just the sec­ond one.

Restaurants can out­source all their de­liv­ery to Relay, no mat­ter if the cus­tomer or­dered on Seamless or DoorDash or called di­rect. When the food is ready, the restau­rant uses the Relay app to sum­mon a worker who is sup­posed to ap­pear in un­der five min­utes. It’s of­ten cheaper for restau­rants than the other apps, and it’s ex­tremely re­li­able.

This is in part be­cause the re­wards Relay of­fers work­ers are greater and its penal­ties more se­vere. Rather than piece­work, it pays $12.50 per hour plus tips. But un­like Uber and DoorDash, work­ers can de­liver food only if they’re sched­uled, and the sched­ule is de­signed through daily zero-sum com­pe­ti­tion, with the best-rated work­ers get­ting first dibs. If you get an early enough sign-up time to grab the Upper West Side from 5 to 9 p.m., you can rest easy know­ing you’ll have a de­cently pay­ing job to­mor­row. But if you re­jected a de­liv­ery, or went too slow, or weren’t in your des­ig­nated zone the sec­ond your shift started (even if that was be­cause you were de­liv­er­ing a Relay or­der from your prior shift), or com­mit­ted any other mys­te­ri­ous in­frac­tion, your sign-up time moves back 20 min­utes. Maybe all that’s left is Hoboken from 2 to 4 p.m. Worse, maybe there’s noth­ing and you’re rel­e­gated to pi­co­teo, or pecking.”

You see them around the city, sit­ting on benches jab­bing their screens, re­fresh­ing the sched­ule on the off chance some un­lucky col­league had to can­cel. It’s a fate ter­ri­fy­ing enough that when one worker hit a storm drain, flew from his bike, and suf­fered a con­cus­sion so se­vere he was pass­ing in and out of con­scious­ness and had to be taken to the hos­pi­tal, he still made sure to have a friend mes­sage the com­pany ex­plain­ing why he was­n’t ac­cept­ing or­ders. Later, try­ing to get his score up, he vol­un­teered to work dur­ing Hurricane Ida, wrecked his bike, and got bumped from the sched­ule en­tirely.

So while DoorDash and Uber work­ers have some lee­way to pick which de­liv­er­ies they take, as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, Relay work­ers ac­cept every or­der as­signed to them. They obey the be­spoke in­struc­tions that pop up on their screens: Don’t wait out­side Benny’s Burritos, don’t ask to use the re­stroom, be super nice!” to Dig Inn be­cause it is a VIP client” — or have your ac­count sus­pended. Above all, they try to main­tain the ideal pace of a de­liv­ery every 15 min­utes, no mat­ter the de­liv­ery dis­tance.

If these sound more like the de­mands placed on an ac­tual em­ployee as op­posed to an os­ten­si­bly free in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor, many class-ac­tion plain­tiffs have agreed. The com­pany has been sued mul­ti­ple times for worker mis­clas­si­fi­ca­tion, tip theft, and other in­frac­tions. It set­tled three times, avoid­ing a rul­ing that could tor­pedo its busi­ness model, and an­other case is cur­rently in ar­bi­tra­tion.

A spokesper­son said the com­pany has im­ple­mented a fix to pre­vent restau­rants from uni­lat­er­ally ex­pand­ing their de­liv­ery zones, but it cur­rently only works for new en­trants to the plat­form. The tip theft that work­ers of­ten com­plain of oc­curs when restau­rants re­ceive an or­der, then en­ter the wrong tip in­for­ma­tion into the Relay app, the spokesper­son said, and the com­pany has added a way for work­ers to dis­pute this. As for the in­tense pres­sure, the com­pany said that it matches the num­ber of rid­ers each day with an­tic­i­pated de­mand but that there is a large back­log of peo­ple who want to work.

That’s true. Many would rather work for a restau­rant, but when forced to pick among the apps, Chavez, Cesar, and oth­ers choose Relay, which they say pays bet­ter and more con­sis­tently than its piece­work peers. It is, af­ter all, the clos­est among them to a tra­di­tional job. But all the apps have this in com­mon: The phys­i­cal prac­ti­cal­i­ties of main­tain­ing the mod­ern buf­fet of speedy de­liv­ery op­tions fall to the work­ers.

What it’s like to be a New York City de­liv­ery worker. Film by Danilo Parra for New York Magazine.

I fol­lowed Chavez down the ramp of the glass tow­er’s park­ing garage and around the cor­ner to where de­liv­ery work­ers have set up a sub­ter­ranean base. Electric bikes were parked in front of ply­wood shelv­ing crammed with charg­ing bat­ter­ies, their lights blink­ing red and green. Under the garage ramp, five work­ers sat on a pipe eat­ing lunch be­neath a harsh flu­o­res­cent light, clothes hung to dry on an­other pipe above their heads. About a dozen peo­ple sat on fold­ing chairs around a long table, eat­ing from Styrofoam take­out trays and play­ing with their phones. Others napped in the car­riages of bike rick­shaws draped with plas­tic flow­ers.

Garages like these are scat­tered across the city, a so­lu­tion worked out to re­place some of the ne­ces­si­ties once sup­plied by restau­rants. Another op­tion for shel­ter, par­tic­u­larly in the win­ter, is to get a Chase debit card and take refuge in the lob­bies of the bank’s ubiq­ui­tous branches, warm­ing your­self with a cof­fee be­fore you’re told to move on. But the cof­fee raises an­other press­ing ques­tion: where to find a re­stroom. The garage solves both prob­lems and oth­ers, like bike stor­age and bat­tery charg­ing. Now, in­stead of shift meals dur­ing the predin­ner lull, work­ers take turns or­der­ing de­liv­ery and eat un­der­ground. (They al­ways tip well.) Chavez pays $120 a month for his spot.

Every adap­ta­tion has a cost, the Arrow be­ing by far the largest. The ap­peal of the Arrow is the net­work of shops that sell it. They sell only Arrows, and if you have one, they will do sim­ple re­pairs for cheap or free. The shops also charge sec­ond bat­ter­ies for a monthly fee. The city’s pocked streets are rough on the bikes, and each evening just be­fore the din­ner rush, de­liv­ery work­ers wait out­side Arrow stores as me­chan­ics strip and rewire wa­ter-dam­aged con­trollers and re­place bald tires with the fluid fo­cus of a NASCAR pit crew.

Bikes, cold-weather gear, garages, main­te­nance: The costs add up. Workers even pay for their own app-branded cooler bags. So while DoorDash claims Manhattan work­ers make $33 per hour, in­clud­ing tips, when you fac­tor in ex­penses, de­liv­ery work­ers have a base pay of $7.87 per hour, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study of app-based work­ers con­ducted by the Cornell Worker Institute and the Worker’s Justice Project. Neither es­ti­mate in­cludes time spent wait­ing be­tween de­liv­er­ies.

Workers de­vel­oped the whole sys­tem — the bikes, re­pair net­works, shel­ters, charg­ing sta­tions — be­cause they had to. To the apps, they are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors; to restau­rants, they are emis­saries of the apps; to cus­tomers, they rep­re­sent the restau­rants. In re­al­ity, the work­ers are on their own, of­ten with­out even the min­i­mum in gov­ern­ment sup­port. As con­trac­tors and, of­ten, un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, they have few pro­tec­tions and vir­tu­ally no safety net. The few times city au­thor­i­ties noted the de­liv­ery work­er’s chang­ing role, it was typ­i­cally with con­fused hos­til­ity. Until re­cently, throt­tle-pow­ered elec­tric bikes like the Arrow were il­le­gal to ride, though not to own. Mayor de Blasio height­ened en­force­ment in 2017, call­ing the bikes a real dan­ger” af­ter an Upper West Side in­vest­ment banker clocked work­ers with a speed gun and com­plained to him on The Brian Lehrer Show.”

The NYPD set up check­points, fin­ing rid­ers $500, seiz­ing their bikes, and post­ing pho­tos of the busts on Twitter. The po­lice would then re­turn the bikes be­cause, again, they were le­gal to own. It was a costly and be­wil­der­ing rit­ual. For years, bike ac­tivists and work­ers pushed for le­gal­iza­tion, though the apps that ben­e­fited from them were largely silent. It was only when an­other group of tech com­pa­nies — hop­ing to make scooter-shar­ing le­gal — joined the fight that a bill moved for­ward in Albany. Then the pan­demic hit, restau­rants were re­stricted to take­out, and the mayor had to ac­knowl­edge that the bikes were an es­sen­tial part of the city’s de­liv­ery in­fra­struc­ture. He halted en­force­ment. The bikes were of­fi­cially le­gal­ized three months later.

Maybe it was le­gal­iza­tion that trig­gered the rob­beries. Maybe it was the pan­demic-emp­tied streets. Maybe it was all the peo­ple out of work who needed money, or all the other peo­ple out of work who were en­list­ing to serve the newly formed Zoom class and sud­denly needed e-bikes. Everyone has a the­ory. But what hap­pened next is a fa­mil­iar story. The work­ers turned to the city for help, got none, and started fig­ur­ing out a so­lu­tion them­selves.

Chavez has no his­tory of ac­tivism and no in­ter­est in be­ing a leader. Those things take time, and he came to the city with a plan: work hard for five years and save enough money to buy a house in Guatemala City. Many work­ers treat the job like a dan­ger­ous but tem­po­rary trial they hope will give them a shot at pulling them­selves out of poverty back home. Cesar has a plan too: work un­til he can buy a house for his par­ents and him­self, then re­turn. Things don’t al­ways go ac­cord­ing to plan. You meet some­one here and start a fam­ily. You dis­cover that all the money you thought you were sav­ing has gone to bikes and food and rent. The city be­comes fa­mil­iar. Years go by.

That was the case for Eliseo Tohom, Chavez’s 36-year-old room­mate. He’s been work­ing de­liv­ery for 14 years. Chavez teases him on his livestreams. That Eliseo is well known around these streets,” he said when Tohom chimed in on the chat. Single ladies, de­liv­ery worker Eliseo is look­ing for a girl to take back to Guatemala.”

Last October, the two were eat­ing pizza in Central Park and talk­ing about the rob­beries. A fel­low garage mem­ber, 17 years old, had been un­lock­ing his bike af­ter de­posit­ing a din­ner on Riverside Drive when two men tack­led him from be­hind. A third grabbed his bike and rode off as the other as­sailants leaped into a wait­ing car.

It was the sec­ond such at­tack to be­fall a garage mem­ber and one of count­less they had heard about. According to NYPD data, rob­beries and at­tempted rob­beries of de­liv­ery work­ers in­creased 65 per­cent in 2020, to 332, and are on track to ex­ceed that num­ber this year. But those are only the small frac­tion of cases that are re­ported to the po­lice. Workers say of­fi­cers of­ten dis­cour­aged them from fil­ing re­ports and showed so lit­tle progress solv­ing the thefts they did re­port that many stopped both­er­ing to do so. In con­trast to the NYPDs num­bers, the Worker’s Justice Project’s sur­vey found that 54 per­cent of the city’s de­liv­ery work­ers have had their bikes stolen. About 30 per­cent of those thefts were vi­o­lent. The group said it re­ceives ap­prox­i­mately 50 re­ports of thefts and rob­beries a day.

Tohom had put to­gether a pool to buy the kid a new bike, but he wanted to do more. He pro­posed go­ing to the lo­cal precinct, maybe with a dozen or so peo­ple from their garage and an­other group in mid­town, and ask­ing the po­lice to do some­thing. Chavez posted the an­nounce­ment on Chapín.

About 30 peo­ple showed up to the park at 72nd and Amsterdam and rode honk­ing to the precinct. There, they blocked the street, shout­ing No more rob­beries!” to non­plussed cops. Eventually, a Spanish-speaking of­fi­cer came out. Tohom stepped for­ward and listed rob­bery af­ter rob­bery — Monday at 150 Central Park, yes­ter­day at 100th, an­other at 67th, knives, guns, ma­chetes, thefts they re­ported months ago and re­ceived no re­sponse about, bikes stolen with GPS that po­lice re­fused to pur­sue — as the crowd yelled Help us.”

The bikes, main­te­nance, shel­ters, charg­ing sta­tions, cooler bags — when you fac­tor those in, de­liv­ery work­ers take home a base pay of $7.87 per hour.

Chavez posted a video of the scene, and it ric­o­cheted through New York’s de­liv­ery com­mu­nity. Overnight, he gained 1,000 fol­low­ers. The next day, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive got in touch from the Worker’s Justice Project, which had pre­vi­ously sup­ported con­struc­tion work­ers and do­mes­tic la­bor­ers and had started or­ga­niz­ing de­liv­ery work­ers dur­ing the pan­demic. WJP helped file the pa­per­work for a more for­mal rally the fol­low­ing week. Again, Chavez an­nounced it on his Facebook page. This time, hun­dreds showed up. Chavez livestreamed as the ar­mada rode honk­ing down Broadway, flags wav­ing from their bikes, to City Hall.

It was the first time so many de­liv­ery work­ers had gath­ered in one place, and it sparked an ex­plo­sion of new groups. It was there that Cesar met Chavez. Soon af­ter, he and his cousins and un­cles launched the Deliveryboys page. Like Chavez’s page, it soon be­came a hub for theft alerts, but it was also a place to memo­ri­al­ize slain and in­jured work­ers. When the DoorDash worker Francisco Villalva Vitinio was shot and killed for his bike in March, the Deliveryboys posted videos of vig­ils in New York and of Villalva Vitinio’s cas­ket be­ing car­ried down the streets of his home­town in Guerrero, Mexico. Later they broad­cast live from the precinct on the day the sus­pect was ar­rested.

Small cadres of work­ers had al­ready be­gun form­ing groups on WhatsApp and Telegram to share in­for­ma­tion and pro­tect one an­other. But now they built more for­mal and larger ver­sions with names like Delivery Worker Alerts, Emergency Group, and Robbery Alerts in the Big Apple. At the protest, work­ers scanned QR codes on one an­oth­er’s phones to join. Approximate ter­ri­to­ries took shape, with groups for the Upper West Side, Astoria, and lower Manhattan.

There are thou­sands of de­liv­ery work­ers on the streets, and if we are all con­nected, we can see the thieves and act our­selves,” Chavez later told his view­ers as he rode. Join a group, he said. Buy a GPS and hide it on your bike; that way, when it gets stolen, you can track it down and call on your fel­low work­ers for help. If the po­lice would­n’t get their bikes back, maybe they could do it them­selves.

It was Gustavo Ajche, a 38-year-old con­struc­tion worker and part-time DoorDasher, who con­tacted Chavez’s group af­ter the im­promptu precinct rally and helped get per­mits for the larger one. Even then, he was push­ing the group to think big­ger. Chavez and Tohom wanted to march to Columbus Circle; Ajche said the thefts were af­fect­ing every­one, so they should march all the way to City Hall. He also wanted them to think be­yond the rob­beries, to reg­u­la­tions and durable im­prove­ments to work­ing con­di­tions.

I met Ajche at 60 Wall Street, a gaudy 80s atrium dec­o­rated with palm trees and columns that is a fre­quent hang­out for de­liv­ery work­ers in the Financial District. The nearby park­ing garage where Ajche stores his bike is­n’t as nice as Chavez’s, he ex­plained, on ac­count of leaks and rats.

There were about a dozen Arrows parked out­side, all with stick­ers bear­ing the red-and-black fist-raised de­liv­ery­man logo of Los Deliveristas Unidos, an arm of the Worker’s Justice Project that Ajche helped start. An an­i­mated speaker with an open face, Ajche is an ef­fec­tive or­ga­nizer, and he’s ea­ger to grow the move­ment. Taking out his phone, he showed me a new Deliveristas logo writ­ten in Bengali — part of the group’s ef­fort to ex­pand be­yond Spanish-speaking work­ers. He would soon make ver­sions in Mandarin and French. I noted the green gear-eyed skull logo on the back of his phone case, the sym­bol of Aztecas en dos Ruedas (“Aztecs on Two Wheels”), a fixie-rid­ing, al­ley-cat-rac­ing club of de­liv­ery work­ers. They are my friends; they are with us,” he said by way of ex­pla­na­tion. A worker, still hel­meted, pushed through the turn­stile door and waved to Ajche be­fore join­ing a group seated on the other side of the hall — Ajche’s friends too.

After the suc­cess of the October march, the Deliveristas planned an even larger rally for April. This time, thou­sands gath­ered and rode honk­ing to City Hall, where they were joined by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from SEIU 32BJ, the pow­er­ful union that backed the Fight for $15. City Councilmember Brad Lander, then run­ning for city comp­trol­ler, and State Senator Jessica Ramos spoke. Later, the City Council in­tro­duced a pack­age of bills crafted in dis­cus­sion with the Deliveristas that would es­tab­lish min­i­mum pay and give work­ers more con­trol over their routes, among other changes (it will likely be voted on this month). In June, the Deliveristas helped kill a bill pushed by Uber and Lyft that would have al­lowed gig work­ers to union­ize while falling short of of­fer­ing them full em­ploy­ment rights.

Some of the apps also be­gan dis­cus­sions with the Deliveristas. DoorDash an­nounced that nearly 200 (out of 18,000) of its restau­rants would let de­liv­ery work­ers use their re­strooms and that the com­pany is work­ing on an emer­gency-as­sis­tance but­ton for its app.

Ajche is far from ap­peased. He re­called a Zoom meet­ing in which DoorDash put for­ward a top Dasher” to tell them how great work­ing for DoorDash was. Ajche si­lenced him by say­ing that he can bring 500 peo­ple with com­plaints. They are afraid of us,” he said. They think we are try­ing to union­ize.”

Later in June, around the time when Cesar and the Deliveryboys were be­gin­ning their watch at the Willis Avenue Bridge, Ajche and other Deliveristas met with the NYPD chief of de­part­ment, Rodney Harrison, who agreed to ap­point an of­fi­cer to act as a li­ai­son with the work­ers and to in­crease se­cu­rity on the bridges.

Progress is slow. The NYPD said it en­cour­ages peo­ple to reg­is­ter their bikes with the de­part­ment and to call 911 if their bike is stolen. But the de­part­ment is a sprawl­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion with tremen­dous in­er­tia and lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of what mod­ern de­liv­ery work en­tails. What we’ve been do­ing is con­quer­ing precinct by precinct,” said Hildalyn Colón Hernández, whom the WJP brought on to han­dle po­lice re­la­tions and pol­icy. Colón Hernández, who pre­vi­ously worked on a con­struc­tion-fraud task force in the Manhattan DAs of­fice, re­called a re­cent ex­change in which she was push­ing an of­fi­cer to in­ves­ti­gate a stolen bike and he said, es­sen­tially, What’s the big deal? It’s just a bike.” Colón Hernández launched into an ex­pla­na­tion: First off, it’s their tool; they lose that tool, they don’t work to­mor­row. Second, it prob­a­bly cost around $3,000. That pa­trol of­fi­cer looked at me very dif­fer­ently,” she said. They were like, Wait a minute. This is a grand lar­ceny?’

She has been hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions like that across the city’s bu­reau­cracy. Take the Willis Avenue Bridge. First, she had to talk to the precincts on ei­ther side of the bridge be­cause the city splits ju­ris­dic­tion down the mid­dle. Then came the cam­eras, which work­ers com­plained were bro­ken, be­cause de­spite the NYPD sign say­ing the bridge was un­der 24-hour sur­veil­lance, when­ever they went to the po­lice ask­ing for footage of their as­saults, they were told none ex­isted. But the cam­eras worked just fine; it’s just that they were pointed at the cars, not the bike path. To change that, Colón Hernández will need to track down some­one in the Department of Transportation and ex­plain why it’s ur­gently im­por­tant that they shift the traf­fic cam­eras on a bridge.

Chavez and the Deliveryboys rarely at­tend these meet­ings. They stress their in­de­pen­dence and ex­press skep­ti­cism that any­one — po­lice, city of­fi­cials, some­times even the Deliveristas — will ever help them. Chavez sees him­self as just a guy with a Facebook page. Juan Solano, Cesar’s un­cle and the most out­spo­ken of the Deliveryboys, sees a dis­tinc­tion be­tween politics,” which are fu­tile, and what they are do­ing, which is organizing our peo­ple” to help them­selves.

Ajche un­der­stands the wari­ness. In our coun­tries, or­ga­ni­za­tions show up, promise to do stuff, and never de­liver,” he said. It’s not like they’ve got­ten much help from in­sti­tu­tions here, ei­ther. Yet he is pal­pa­bly frus­trated at the re­sis­tance. A change of mind would be good for them. They have po­ten­tial; they’ve done things. But they reached a point where they can’t do much more since they’re not in touch with politi­cians.”

Ajche pointed out that ear­lier this year, the Deliveryboys told their fol­low­ers to bar­rage the Relay app with a cut-and-paste in­dict­ment of the com­pa­ny’s rat­ing sys­tem, long routes, and van­ish­ing tips. Us de­liv­ery work­ers are tired of so much in­jus­tice,” they wrote, threat­en­ing to stop work­ing with­out prior no­tice.”

It’s the same thing that we are try­ing to do!” Ajche said.

Not long af­ter the walk­out threat, Relay added a DISPUTE TIP but­ton. It was a vic­tory, but a par­tial one. Making use of the fea­ture re­quires work­ers to know the ac­tual amount a cus­tomer tipped, and many lack the lan­guage skills to ask. Juan is think­ing about mak­ing cards in English so they can show cus­tomers why they need to know.

Anthony Chavez prepar­ing to head out for the din­ner shift.

Delivery work­ers store their bikes at a garage overnight and pre­pare to take the sub­way home.

Cesar Solano at Willis Avenue Bridge on his birth­day at the end of his work day.

Bikers wait for a big­ger group to form be­fore cross­ing the Willis Avenue Bridge.

Juan Solano at home in the two-bed­room apart­ment he shares with five other de­liv­ery bik­ers.

Compared to the grind­ing progress of New York’s bu­reau­cracy, when it comes to thefts, self-de­fense yields im­me­di­ate re­sults: a bike re­cov­ered, a thief ap­pre­hended, a bridge de­fended.

Chavez ad­vises work­ers to keep a photo of their bike on their phone. If it’s stolen, send the photo to the group, and of­ten an­other worker will soon spot some­one sell­ing it on the street. The spot­ter sends the lo­ca­tion, then pre­tends to be an in­ter­ested buyer — Hey, buddy, how much you want for that?” — un­til re­in­force­ments ar­rive and un­ob­tru­sively en­cir­cle the two hag­glers be­fore clos­ing in. Ideally, sur­rounded by a dozen de­liv­ery work­ers, the sus­pect gives up peace­fully and re­turns the bike to its right­ful owner.

But not al­ways. In June, a Lower East Side group saw some­one sell­ing a stolen bike on Lafayette, but the sus­pect hopped on the bike and fled. The group gave chase for sev­eral blocks be­fore tack­ling him on Delancey. At that point, the po­lice took no­tice and de­tained the sus­pect. When the bike’s owner ar­rived, he cer­e­mo­ni­ously in­serted his key into the lock, dan­gling from the frame, and opened it to cheers.

Two weeks later, a Relay worker named Angel Lopez was cruis­ing up Amsterdam with a din­ner from Celeste when he no­ticed some­one saw­ing through a bike lock with a power grinder, throw­ing up sparks. He stopped, shocked. While he was de­bat­ing what to do, work­ers from a nearby Chinese take­out place rushed out, grabbed chairs from their out­door-din­ing setup, and started hit­ting the thief, who re­sponded by bran­dish­ing his buzz saw. A stand­off en­sued un­til the thief, de­terred, jogged off. Lopez sent an alert to his group, Upper Furious, and fol­lowed from a dis­tance.

If I let him go, he’s just gonna get away, just like every other guy, he thought. Lopez crossed paths with two other work­ers and told them what was hap­pen­ing. They joined in cau­tious pur­suit. Periodically, the thief looked back and yelled, Keep fol­low­ing me. I got some­thing for you,” Lopez said, and they won­dered what that could mean, whether he could have a gun in his back­pack and be lur­ing them to a less crowded part of town.

The man stopped at an­other locked bike and be­gan again with the buzz saw, threat­en­ing the work­ers when­ever they got close. That thing will cut your face off,” Lopez re­called. The bike freed, the thief started to pedal away.

There were now about ten work­ers, and they chased the thief, try­ing to shove him off his bike as he at­tempted to strike them with his saw. Lopez said they passed a cop car and shouted for help, to no avail.

They hit the down­ward slope to­ward Riverside Park, and a few work­ers gunned their bikes for­ward to head off the thief. Surrounded, he got off the bike and swung the saw, then hurled the cut lock at the gath­ered crowd. But in throw­ing the lock, he lost his grip on the saw, and it fell to the ground. It was at that mo­ment that po­lice ar­rived, pushed through the work­ers, and pinned the sus­pect to the ground with, Lopez said, a de­gree of force he felt am­biva­lent about. It got to the point where he said, I can’t breathe’ — you know those fa­mous lines,” he re­called. A few work­ers shouted that he de­served it. You could feel the anger in the air,” Lopez said.

He could­n’t stay to talk to the cops. He was 30 min­utes late with his or­der and wor­ried Relay would de­ac­ti­vate him. You’re no su­per­hero,” he imag­ined the com­pany telling him. Just de­liver the food.” The sus­pect was charged with at­tempted rob­bery, pos­ses­sion of a weapon, pe­tit lar­ceny, and re­sist­ing ar­rest.

These ad hoc sting op­er­a­tions worry Colón Hernández. She be­lieves that some of the thieves are or­ga­nized, pos­si­bly trans­port­ing the bikes out of state. They are of­ten armed. Workers have been stabbed and at­tacked with fire­works when they tried to re­cover their bikes them­selves. Chasing down and ap­pre­hend­ing every thief in the city is both un­sus­tain­able and dan­ger­ous.

The first time works. The sec­ond time may work. What hap­pens when the third time, some­body gets killed? Or you hurt some­body be­cause you’re chas­ing peo­ple at a very fast pace?” she said. I’ve been say­ing this to the NYPD: One day I’m go­ing to get a call that I don’t want to get.”

On a Friday night in July, Nicolas was com­ing back out­side af­ter drop­ping off a pizza near Madison Square Park when he saw that his bike had van­ished. What am I go­ing to do? he thought. How am I go­ing to work?

Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Nicolas, 42 (who, fear­ing re­tal­i­a­tion from the thief, re­quested a pseu­do­nym), worked to send money home to his four chil­dren, whom he had­n’t seen since he crossed the bor­der 12 years ago. The more he worked, the sooner he could re­turn, and he worked a lot: a 5 a.m. clean­ing shift at a pizza place, then de­liv­er­ing ei­ther for the restau­rant or for DoorDash.

He called his brother, an­other de­liv­ery worker, and asked him to post a photo of his bike to the Deliveryboys’ WhatsApp. An hour later, he got a hit: Someone had spot­ted his bike, a teal-taped Arrow, be­ing wheeled into an apart­ment build­ing in the Bronx. The tip­ster had fol­lowed the man, filmed him, and noted the ad­dress. Nicolas got on the train and headed there.

He was met by five other work­ers from the WhatsApp group who’d come to help. Standing in front of the build­ing, Nicolas called 911 and was told to wait for a pa­trol car, so they waited. And waited. After mid­night, he thanked the oth­ers for stand­ing by him and told them to go home.

Three days later, af­ter he’d given the bike up for lost, one of the work­ers who had stood with him Friday flagged him down. Another bike had been stolen and traced to the same build­ing. A group was gath­er­ing to get it back.

When the two ar­rived, they en­coun­tered 15 or so work­ers stand­ing in front of the build­ing. Cesar was there along with a con­tin­gent that had car­a­vanned from the Willis Avenue Bridge. Chavez was there too. Nicolas in­tro­duced him­self.

Cesar and Chavez had been called there by the owner of the other bike, Margaro Solano. Unlike Nicolas’s bike, Margaro’s had a GPS. Seeing his bike had been taken to the Bronx, he and his wife — who left her restau­rant job to help — had im­me­di­ately headed there. They con­firmed they had the right place by ob­tain­ing build­ing sur­veil­lance footage of a man — the same one filmed car­ry­ing Nicolas’s bike — lug­ging Margaro’s up the stairs and into his apart­ment. They could hear Margaro’s bike alarm blar­ing through the door.

After Margaro was un­able to get help from the nearby precinct, he called Chavez, who texted Cesar, who put out a call on WhatsApp. By the time Nicolas ar­rived, the group had gone back to the precinct, failed to get help, and set­tled in for a stake­out.

Rather than risk a con­fronta­tion in­side the build­ing, Chavez and the oth­ers de­cided the safest ap­proach would be to wait for the thief to emerge and ask for the bikes back. Two work­ers stood just out­side the build­ing en­trance, while an­other loi­tered in the lobby. The rest gath­ered on the side­walk out­side, chat­ting. The stake­out was the first time most of them had met in per­son.

Around mid­night, con­ver­sa­tion be­gan to shift to how late it was and when they should de­cide to call it a night. Many had come di­rectly from work, skip­ping din­ner. Then he emerged, the man from the videos. The work­ers on the street watched as he opened the lobby door and stepped out­side.

The group fol­lowed him for a block, tail­ing him as stealth­ily as a dozen de­liv­ery­men on elec­tric bikes could man­age. After a sec­ond block, they de­scended, sur­round­ing him on the side­walk.

For vig­i­lante jus­tice, it was a re­strained con­fronta­tion. No one touched any­one else. The work­ers, masked, stood back in a cir­cle and asked for their bikes to be re­turned; the man tow­ered over them by at least two heads. Chavez was film­ing, Cesar broad­cast­ing live. Nicolas stood at the mar­gins, watch­ing.

To Cesar’s sur­prise, the man asked how many bikes they had come for.

When the thief asked for $1,000 to give them back, the work­ers started shout­ing. Show him! Let him see!” they yelled in Spanish. The cam­era was watch­ing you!” in English. Chavez said they did­n’t want trou­ble and would­n’t call the po­lice if the man just gave back the bikes — a bluff. Chavez knew the po­lice would­n’t come. The man did­n’t budge.

...

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